Director and actor Emilio Estevez revealed that he shares some core values with The Salvation Army when he launched his latest film, The Public, on the opening night of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in January this year.
Set in a Cincinnati library, the storyline follows a group of homeless people in a brutal mid-western winter. The emergency shelters are full, so these library patrons refuse to leave the library at closing time, and stage a non-violent sit-in. This doesn’t go down well with the local riot police, and crisis negotiator (Alec Baldwin), along with the librarians (one of whom is played by Estevez), is caught in the middle.
In writing the script, Estevez exemplified the Salvo values of caring for people and working for justice.
Estevez is a staunch library fan, and he told americanlibrariesmagazine.org that he was inspired to make the film by an essay by retired assistant library director Chip Ward, called ‘What they didn’t teach us in library school: the public library as an asylum for the homeless’.
Ward wrote that too many people in America thought that homeless people just needed to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’, an attitude that offends Estevez.
“First off, you’ve got to have boots to begin with. You and I have shoes, computers, laptop, iPad, and a mobile phone,” he tells americanlibrariesmagazine.org.
But homeless people “depend on the local library to access a computer with a two-hour time limit to write emails to your friends, let your relatives know you’re still alive and surviving the latest cold snap, look for job openings, and read the news of the day,” Estevez says.
He is scathing of many of the current political hardline attitudes to the homeless and is passionate about what the role of public libraries should be for those in need.
“It is a moral imperative for libraries and other public spaces to help the homeless and other populations in need. If you possess a beating heart, that is as close to an unarguable statement as you are likely to hear. Unfortunately, there are many along political divides who are seemingly heartless,” he fumes.
What frustrates Estevez is the inequity of online access for homeless people compared to those who live in comfort.
“The homeless person sits in front of that library computer and watches his two-hour time limit get eaten up by slow internet service because the underfunded institution could not afford the premium service and extend it to patrons,” he says.
Libraries have always been important to Estevez, and he recalls that as a boy the library felt like a safe place where he could disappear for hours and be surrounded by infinite possibilities.
If you are scratching your head to place Emilio Estevez, he comes from the Sheen family movie dynasty, being the son of The West Wing’s Martin Sheen, and brother of three acting siblings, Charlie Sheen, Renée Estevez and Ramon Estevez.
To honour Martin Sheen’s Spanish heritage, Emilio chose to take his father’s birth name, rather than the Sheen stage name.
Growing up with a strict Southern Baptist mother and devout Catholic father, Estevez recalls that there were many arguments about religion, but that the children were all baptised.
“I’m a work in progress, religiously, and I really feel that I’m on a journey,” he reflects.
Estevez is definite about the impact he would like his film
“One dream I have for the film is to have a percentage of the proceeds of every movie ticket sold to go toward the public good in the community where the tickets are purchased. Woefully underfunded libraries as well as homelessness advocacy groups could benefit from the success of the picture.”
It’s clear that thoughtfulness, compassion and action are a big part of Emilio Estevez’s contribution to the world of film and, in fact, to the world.
The Salvation Army is joining with other not-for-profit organisations in supporting the ‘Everybody’s Home’ campaign which seeks to create a fair housing market for everybody in Australia. Whether it is ensuring affordable rentals, or making the property market more accessible, we believe everyone deserves a fair go—and a roof over their head.
Find out more at everybodyshome.com.au