A humanizing portrayal of homeless people in Los Angeles facing constant hardships, Lazarus follows a filmmaker's search for ecstatic truths within the epidemic. Beginning with tent encampments, filmmaker Patrick Ross journeys into the heart of Skid Row to document life in the nation's most emblematic area for the homelessness crisis. The film's narrative extrapolates on the biblical parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus, in which the beggar, Lazarus, is sent back to earth to prevent agony from blanketing the land. Lazarus, embodied by a deaf man named David, loses all of his belongings as sacrifice for the cause.
Under the 101 on Alvarado St.
Under the Temple St. Bridge
South Beaudry Ave.
What originally began as a way to stay visually active with photography, using a film camera to collect interesting images in the area around the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, soon led to encounters with homeless people. I quickly resorted to journal entries to record our conversations, but as I made repeat visits to my new acquaintances, getting to know individuals and understand the lay of the land, I recognized the need to capture our interactions with video.
Each encounter left me with such strong impressions that I was eventually drawn to skid row on the edge of downtown Los Angeles—one of the most tragic areas in all of urban America. An area of immense suffering, I would discover that skid row is a community that has extremely polarizing effects on an observer. Unlike anywhere else, skid row leaves its visitors with both lows from empathetic pain and ecstatic highs from witnessing the reciprocal generosity within the homeless community. Within the anguish and heartbreak is a sublime beauty of individual pride and mutual concern that binds its residents in a singularity unmatched elsewhere.
This film presents the raw, objective reality of homelessness. Avoiding the standard interview and far too common questioning for backstory, my approach was to simply listen. My goal was to capture the lives of these homeless individuals within their everyday existence, giving more fortunate people, who otherwise would never engage with the homeless, the opportunity to witness these extraordinary people in a humanizing context.
Far too often the homeless are stereotyped, marginalized, and written off. This film aims to remove the veil through which society at large views these amazing individuals, many of whom are among the most resilient, compassionate, and resourceful individuals I have ever encountered.
My life has been enriched by the people I met and came to know in making this film. One of them, Stephen, though homeless, proved to be a creative filmmaker in his own right. He became my friend, filming partner and street contact for skid row. Unfortunately, I lost track of many of the other individuals in the film when the city cleared them out from the areas where I had met them, using plows to scoop up the remaining bits of their possessions.
My hope, is for this film to be a call to action—for people to avoid viewing the homeless through stereotypes and instead to interact directly with homeless individuals showing respect for their humanity.
Avoiding statistics or debates over potential solutions, I seek to provide a platform for the voiceless. The best way to properly address the epidemic of homelessness and develop appropriate solutions is to listen to the homeless themselves. Only they can provide the proper clarity to fully comprehend their plight and to understand the challenge our society needs to face. This film takes the first steps down a long path.