In May 2016, I met Brian Noel, an eccentric and prolific videographer based in Phoenix, Arizona. What distinguished Brian from other passionate, aspiring filmmakers, was not necessarily his raw technique and provocative videos on social ‘(in)justice’. If in the virtual world this 58-year-old man could be a ‘star’, in the real world, Brian was invisible as a member of the hidden homeless population in the US. His YouTube channel became a platform to be heard and to be treated as ‘equal’, in contrast with his ‘bum persona’ in the analog world. Brian and I joined creative forces to produce a documentary film exploring the dreams and realities of homelessness in Arizona through observational and collaborative filmmaking. The participatory nature of the project allowed Brian to gain greater control over the identity and image of people struggling with homelessness, as well as allowing me as a filmmaker to arrive to a new understanding of this social issue. Pink (2009) argues, "the collaborative and reflexive processes that interweave to produce the film, create social interventions in their own right by generating new levels of self-awareness and identity amongst research participants" (p.5). Collaborative and participatory practices often include a political and social dimension that is critical of the power relations in which the documentary subjects are implicated. In other words, this documentary ideologically explores how subjects and filmmakers can join forces in order to deliver observational films in which 'no one voice dominates' in the creation of a collective ethnographic knowledge.

Won the Award of Excellence at the 2017 BEA Festival of Media Arts.


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