Review by Sean Boelman
Disco’d, directed by Matthew Siretta, is an important new documentary exploring the shockingly prevalent issue of homelessness in the streets of Los Angeles. Although the film effectively defines the issues plaguing the L.A. streets, it fails to connect these stories to the bigger picture, preventing it from creating a much-needed sense of urgency.
The movie follows multiple homeless L.A. residents at night as they fight for the most basic necessities of survival, such as food and shelter. Many people (especially those who live in urban areas) encounter the homeless on a daily basis, but few realize exactly how widespread this epidemic has become. If Siretta’s film only gets one point across, let it be that this issue is worse than people think and expect.
Siretta tries to address a lot of the issues that arise from the greater problem of homelessness in Los Angeles, such as poor quality of living, drug addiction, and the endlessly perpetuating cycle that traps people in these poor conditions, but the movie almost would have been more impactful had it stuck with a single one of these topics.
The film is at its most effective when it is exploring the human impact of homelessness. The people who are portrayed in the documentary were actually living on the streets at the time of filming, and Siretta is brutally honest in the way he shows these subjects and how they are living. There are some sweet moments throughout, but this is very much a movie meant to horrify the audience about what they are watching.
At times, the film does lean a bit too heavily into this shock value, particularly in the sequences depicting the subjects’ drug addictions, but for the most part, the movie is extremely resonant on an emotional level. Surprisingly, some of the most powerful shots of the film are long takes that simply show the conditions in which these people are living.
Clocking in at under an hour and fifteen minutes, this documentary moves very quickly, especially with the amount of subjects it has. Over the course of the movie, the focus switches between multiple homeless residents of Los Angeles, and even though each of them contributes to the story in their own way, the film likely could have eliminated one or two of them from the narrative.
On a technical level, the movie is mostly strong especially given the fact that a majority of the footage was shot at night on the streets. This environment is almost as far as one can get from controlled, so the fact that Siretta was able to pull this film off in a way that effectively conveys the story and its emotion, and still manages to make the movie look terrifyingly great is very impressive.
Disco’d may not be the force of change that it hopes to be, but it is still an interesting documentary with a message that needs to be heard. Director Serietta’s passion about the issue is evident, making the film a compelling watch.
Disco’d is now playing in theaters.