Directed by: #KeithWilhelmKopp
Written by: Keith Wilhelm Kopp and #MikeMarchlewski
Helena is an American short film directed by Keith Wilhelm Kopp that proves films are not only for mere entertainment, but also they’re ways to spark conversations. Here, Kopp and Mike Marchlewski have written a story for people to reflect upon the issue of homelessness – more specifically in Oregan, Portland, town where the director is from.
We are invited into Helena’s world, played by Jennifer Oswald, a homeless woman who loiters around a convenience store and sleeps in a car. In the beginning of the film we hear a voice-over from Helena’s daughter wanting to know where she is. This voice message informs the viewer that the daughter is unaware of her mum’s condition, but the film also withholds the reason why Helena is on the streets. However, through the daughter’s tone of voice it makes us think that, although something did happen, the two of them do not necessarily have a bad relationship.
The short film focuses on this mother/daughter relationship to tell a bigger story. Through the character of Helena the film humanises the homeless, it makes us acknowledge that behind each person there is a story. Helena is a mother, she cares for others, but it is not until she is forced to assume a nurturing position towards another young woman that she decides to fix her own relationship with her daughter.
Kopp and Marchlewski are very careful in creating Helena’s character, especially through Marchlewski’s lenses and Oswald’s delicate acting, the film portrays the world, the one Helena exists in but does not live in, through small actions. There is a lack of dialogue that furthers Helena’s sense of isolation - there are only a few lines of dialogue, the one between Helena and her daughter and between Helena and the young woman she “mothers”. The loudest noises are from the things which surround her - a rain, a light flicking, rain; however, the one that stands out and serves as a catalyst for Helena is the train that starts as a diegetic sound and ends almost as a manifestation of Helena’s thoughts merging.
Helena has a few seconds to make a decision whether to save or not a woman who is in front of an in-coming train. For Helena, the image of this woman is two-fold: she represents what Helena’s future might lead to, but she also represents what her daughter’s future might lead to. The urgency of the situation and the deafening sound of the train point Helena to the right direction.
For Kopp the problem of homelessness is something tangible and the character of Helena unifies and personifies the bigger issue – her ending/beginning may seem positive, but the road leading up to it might not always be.