This short film is based off of a feature film that I am hoping to shoot summer of 2024. Survival of the Holy Fool (feature) questions the vitality of the “American Dream” in a country that is divided politically, economically, and spiritually. This magical realism film is set in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia and follows the lives of ten characters, some of which have lived there for generations. It takes place over the course of a year, beginning with the annual block party on a warm August day and ending one year later as a rare solar eclipse appears over the city. The celestial event coincides with profound changes that mark this community forever.
Set in 2017, the mainly Irish and Polish multi-generational families that live on the block have suffered for years with unemployment, poverty, and a sense of being left behind after the local metal plant closed in the 90s. They may not have a future filled with promise but they are a tightly knit community with pride in their traditions. Beers at the corner pub, hanging out on their front stoops, and their familiarity with each other are the rituals to which they cling. Despite the bleak future, the locals strive for better lives.
But gentrification is bringing in new families with different values. An uneasy undercurrent of tribalism percolates daily life. Things become more fraught when the newcomers raise concerns about residual lead contaminates from the closed factory.
With the backdrop of the ongoing contamination investigation, the viewer follows the lives of a handful of neighbors whose stories are interwoven. The humanity of the characters shines through as they wrestle with a variety of challenges: Bingo addiction, panic attacks, getting pregnant through I.V.F, a baby dying from S.I.D.S, and the simple desire to matter. But with their desire to matter, some characters make choices that diminish their integrity rather than strengthen it.
The outcast of Fishtown is the Holy Fool, a modern day spiritual pilgrim who believes in universality, has no name, no possessions or family, and chooses a life of poverty. At first the neighbors reject her but she persists in making a connection and one by one they realize she has access to truths and wisdom that they don’t and she winds up becoming the neighborhood’s guardian angel.
Events are brought to a head as the solar eclipse approaches. The climax arrives with a protest at the steps of the plant where feuding factions and chanting protestors from around the country have assembled to hear the EPA's announcement about the lead investigation findings. The officials declare the plant will be listed as an EPA superfund site, but because there are no funds for remediation, the plant and the cleanup will remain in limbo. Pandemonium breaks out among the lunatic crowds and the protesters turn into rioters tearing each other apart.
The Holy Fool, caught in the middle of the chaos, opens her mouth to let loose a cacophony of her inner light and sound. The mystical light spreads through the rioters and for one moment there is peace and unity among them. When the moment has ended the Holy Fool, who sacrificed herself to stop the rioting, lies dead on the ground. As the neighbors grieve over the loss of this modern day spiritual pilgrim, her spirit is lifted up to the eclipse. As she rises, she looks below at the destruction and pain of the rioters. She tears off a piece of the eclipse and brings her spirit back to earth. She inhales, restoring her body to life. Her purpose in life is not complete.
The denouement of the film shows the Holy Fool walking up the street. As she steps along the road, others who want to walk for the same message of universality join her. They are Holy Fools together.
My guess is that every filmmaker has a story that they just can't let go of but seems terribly hard to make. For me that's Survival of the Holy Fool. I started writing the script as soon as I returned home from shooting I AM THAT. I have been working on it off and on since 2016. I've become a better writer from this screenplay and more importantly I've learned what it means to control the vision. To write what is possible to shoot. The first drafts of this film were ludicrously expensive. The current version is the shortest and by far the easiest to shoot, however, I have still managed to retain the essential magical realism elements.
In 2020, I shot a proof of concept that features only the Holy Fool character and demonstrates the light that is inside of her as well as her behavior. It is 3:30 minutes long and will be used to raise financing.
In the summer of 2021, I shot a trailer that features the neighbors and the Holy Fool. This trailer is finished. However, I am not releasing it until I secure financing. There is still a chance that I will need to self fund this film through a crowdfunding campaign fall of 2023.
If you'd like to watch either the proof of concept or the trailer, email me and I'll send you private links.