Two powerful documentary films were featured during the Utah Community Action Partnership Association's Conference on Poverty - Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County and Welcome to Shelbyville.
Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County
Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County explores the world of children who reside in discounted motels within walking distance of Disneyland, living in limbo as their families struggle to survive in one of the wealthiest regions of America. The parents of motel kids are often hard workers who don't earn enough to own or rent homes. As a result, they continue to live week-to-week in motels, hoping against hope for an opportunity that might allow them to move up in the O.C.
The toll of this lifestyle on their children is severe. Though the community tries to provide adequate education and food, the day-to-day lives of motel kids are often a numbing exercise in frustrating constraints and ever-diminishing expectations.
Welcome to Shelbyville
Welcome to Shelbyville is a glimpse of America at a crossroads. In one town in the heart of America’s bible belt, a community grapples with rapidly changing demographics. Longtime African-American and White residents are challenged with how to integrate with a growing Latino population and the more recent arrival of hundreds of Somali refugees of Muslim faith.
Set on the eve of the 2008 Presidential election, the film captures the interaction between these residents as they navigate new waters against the backdrop of a tumultuous year. The economy is in crisis, factories are closing, and jobs are hard to find. Just as the Latino population grapples with their own immigrant identity, African-America residents look back at their segregated past and balance perceived threats to their livelihood against the values that they learned through their own long struggle for civil rights. While the new-comers attempt to make new lives for themselves and their children, leaders in this deeply religious community attempt to guide their congregations through this period of unprecedented change.
Through the vibrant and colorful characters of Shelbyville, the film explores immigrant integration and the interplay between race, religion, and identity. Ultimately, the story is an intimate portrayal of a community’s struggle to understand what it means to be American.