“A film about compassion that invites us to forget about all borders, be they of race, nationality or religion.”
— Eye International
The soup kitchen at the aptly-named Church of the Advocate, in one of Philadelphia’s poorest neighbourhoods, is 34 years old and has its roots in the Black Panther Party.
Crushing poverty, drug addiction, gun violence and police harassment are a part of daily life in the African-American part of the city.
Petr Lom recorded the kitchen staff, volunteers and guests for two years, and reveals the story of the church through three of its most committed team members: its pastor, Dr. Renée McKenzie; former Black Panther, Barbara Easely-Cox; and lead cook, Mamie Mathis – who prepares hot meals for about over 100 people a day.
During Petr’s shoot, the church providing sanctuary for a family of undocumented Mexican immigrants threatened with arrest by ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The plain felt truth is
that the struggle for social justice
needs witnesses who record
and disseminate what’s going on.
– JoAnne Velin, Modern Times Review
The church has a long tradition of social justice activism, and its ‘activist congregation’ has responded to new forms of injustice as they appear.
When a family of undocumented Mexican immigrants, threatened with arrest by ICE, seeks sanctuary, the church begins to connect with a community it hasn’t previously served: Latin Americans. The most important thing, according to Pastor Renée, is to provide care and attention for oppressed and marginalised people.
Legal challenges, public demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience follow. Against those, the clock is running down because the money is running out to sustain the soup kitchen at the heart of the church’s daily support for its community.
The film and filmmaker’s sympathies are clear, supporting compassion and humanity in opposition to the equally clear absence of those qualities in America’s current leadership.
Previous festival selections include: