While we see homeless people every day, we make them feel invisible. We look at them with the prejudices that they’re addicts or people who don’t want to work but there’s so much more to them than what meets the eye.
Director Marc Zammit wants to help the discrimination of homeless people and homelessness out of this world with his debut film “Homeless Ashes”. We caught up with him at the world premiere of the movie during the Raindance Film Festival.
Liselotte Vanophem: How do you feel?
Marc Zammit: Nervous. This is my first Raindance Film Festival. I’m having my directional debut here so it’s very overwhelming.
LV: Is this the first time the movie will be screened?
MZ: Yes, this is the world premiere. We had a cast and crew screening at the 195 BAFTA which is just around the corner from Raindance. That was a good screening because we got some feedback from the cast and crew and family and friends. Since then, we have done a shorter edit of this film and now it’s about the premiere. It’s just amazing! I love it!
LV: Can you tell us a little bit more about your film?
MZ: Well, it’s about a young boy called Frankie who’s in an abusive family. His dad is using domestic violence on Frankie’s mom Abbey. Frankie is standing up to his fears and has enough. He can’t deal with it anymore and runs away from home. We follow his journey when he’s trying to survive on the streets. It’s a very intense watch but the aim is to raise awareness around homelessness and to get the message out there. I think that’s very important.
LV: Where did the idea for this film come from? Was it based on real life events?
MZ: The film had a lot of different stories from some homeless people I met during my volunteer work for Crisis [A charity for homeless people]. I was there around Christmas time. Meeting homeless people would give a more authentic element to this film because you can get to understand more what the homeless people are going through. You can do your research and watch some videos but it’s certainly not the same.
When you hear it, you end up having a personal connection with the person. You start to get empathy for them. That’s what I wanted to do with this film. You’ll see many scenes that show that as well. There are some true events there but there are also some made-up stories. Frankie’s story is not a true story and the reason why is because I didn’t want to focus on one story because then it ends up becoming about an individual rather than about the topic.
LV: Did this also have an impact on your own life?
MZ: Yeah, doing this made me feel that I understood that Frankie and I share the same journey. I come from a poor background and I knew a lot of people who were homeless or that became homeless. For me, it was just finding that voice. I felt like I had to stand up for this inequality. I know that I could and that I would have the opportunity to express this. It was an amazing experience and I felt like a lot of personal healing during the making of this movie.
LV: The casting for this film was very important as well. How did you come across Hector [Bateman-Harden, who plays the young Frankie
MZ: I remember when I was doing the film and there were times where I would meet certain people and try to make a story around this character of the actor or actress. For example, Madalina [Bellariu Ion] who plays Eva. We created a scene and she told me a lot about Europeans who come into London or big cities and who are being forced into human trafficking by their boyfriends and run away and got nowhere to go. I remember meeting her over tea about this and I found that a very beautiful story. When I heard that, I knew that I needed to put that in the film and that she was going to play that character as she was an actress. It fluently worked together.
The hardest part to cast was the one of younger Frankie. Hector [Bateman-Harden] is extremely talented and he just smashed it. He did an amazing job!
LV: You already mentioned that abusive, both mentally and psychically, is a big of young Frankie’s life. How hard was it for Hector not to take these things very personal? He’s very young so it must have been difficult. Did you rehearse those specific scenes a lot or did you do something else to make him feel fine with it?
MZ: Yeah, we’ve rehearsed with Dean [Maskell, who plays Frankie’s dad] and Angela [Dixon, who plays Frankie’s mom]. We played some ball games during which it would be like the child and mom versus the dad. It was a fun way to build up the nice energy between them. Then we slowly got into the scenes and we developed a nice relationship on set. We made sure that there was a lot of respect, safety, and love. It was about not putting anyone under pressure.
LV: One last question: What’s next for you?
MZ: I’ve got this film called “One Thousand Flames”, a music drama about a guy that is a bit of an ass. He’s a very talented musician and songwriter. He ends up in a very bad accident after just signing a big record deal with his band. He ends up losing the record deal and his friends are making the songs without him. They’re moving on. Then he meets this girl called Mia who’s teaching him how to sing again. We just got the funding and we will start filming it in March.