Director’s Statement

In 2012 I’d often find myself driving through parts of Downtown Las Vegas, an area known as Fremont. I was there working on another project and this drive regularly coincided with the incredibly atmospheric time of day when the harsh desert sun had set, and a magical twilight existed. What struck me with this transition, one similarly taking place in countless other towns and cities, is that it seemed to herald a more significant change here. Not only was day turning to night it also seemed to affect a stark shift in the character of the place. A myriad of cop cars with flashing lights, people in handcuffs over the hoods of cars. Individuals yelling, psychological distress overwhelmingly everywhere. Prostitution on street corners, pimps and drug dealers pacing up and down. This was not the Vegas of the ad campaigns. By conservative estimates there were more than 14,000 homeless people here. I was struck with the disconnect of how such a city wants to be perceived and the raw reality.


This was a story that needed telling so I began to talk to the homeless. It felt like these people were treated as statistics, the people that cars drive by at intersections, yet the overriding feeling I had was that these people have family, that this was never their chosen destiny. Here was this American dystopia set amongst the majestic surrounding desert mountains. Such an evocative contrast of man’s creation and nature and a microcosm of the modern American experiment.


It wasn’t long until I met Truth – everyone on the streets has a street name – and Truth’s name fit with his candid demeanour. At first, he and his slightly more reserved partner Kitty were living in a weekly motel style apartment and barely making a living diving in the dumpsters and recycling the trash. In a town that generates so much waste and recycles barely anything this alone was illuminating. Truth himself stated that Las Vegas was a poster child for the destruction of the planet. They were both charismatic, well known and respected in the community and had authentic voices in an extraordinary place.


I returned to film a month later to find that they had lost their apartment, now they had joined the legions of homeless who were everywhere in this neighbourhood. I learnt more about Truth and Kitty and witnessed their meth habit. I’d worked on meth awareness campaigns in the US and knew many of the dangers.


I was charmed by their love for one another and how well matched they seemed to be. Here was a love story that I felt I’d never seen explored before. This was a relationship story unfolding in a hostile environment in a city who’d rather have you believe this small corner of town didn’t exist. For all the hardship there was regularly humour to be found; I wanted to capture this as a counterpoint to the obvious adversity.


Each visit divulged new information and perspective. Truth held Kitty in high esteem and talked with love and affection for her. This became more compelling when I learned that he had been her pimp and that she still in fact went on ‘dates’. This unconventional layer to their relationship, was something I knew I needed to dig deeper on.


At this point I carefully considered the next steps with my editor and producing partner, Nik Hindson, on how we would construct this film. We would take wider counsel from experts and civic leaders, the police and charities. I spoke to many to build the picture but ultimately this was Truth and Kitty’s personal story. We wanted the film to be immersive and told through their voices. The fading splendour of this area mirrored the narrative of the lives of those who lived there. Sure there were the twinkling lights on Fremont, but they’d all seen better days, a distant cousin to the giant screens and lasers of the strip a few miles away: that Vegas was the self styled ’entertainment capital of the world’.


It was a conscious decision to leave that more familiar Vegas out of the film. We glimpse it in the distance, but to our protagonists it may well have been another city and I wanted to feel that distance. Everyone they knew lived within a few blocks and rarely ventured further. I interviewed and included many of these people in their immediate world and used their testimony – a kind of interspersed Greek chorus that informs Truth and Kitty’s central narrative.


The filming carried on every few months. On more than one occasion I was unable to find them at all. Truth was sometimes in jail for misdemeanours, leaving Kitty fending for herself. Kitty’s voice was becoming stronger at this point, Truth was retreating into religious fixation and she was struggling with his behaviour.


They then moved to a cave in a mountain on the city’s edge. A freezing cave in the depths of the winter. This town was harsh: scorching in the summer and freezing desert nights in the winter. Doubts began to surface for Kitty on her chosen path.


Over time the laughs became less frequent and their trajectory was taking on a downward inevitability. Truth was suffering from meth psychosis. This meant Kitty found him unpredictable to be around, and potentially violent. I felt my journey had to continue with them on a deeply personal level. Seven years of filming was the conclusion.


A few months ago Las Vegas passed a law making it illegal to sleep on the street if there is a place in a shelter available. There are less than 3000 spaces on any given night for over 14,000 homeless. As homeless populations increase across America my hope is to shine a light on who these people might be, how they got there and where they might be going.