Local filmmakers spotlight homeless vets in St. Pete

Cranstan Cumberbatch, seated, prepared for his role as a homeless veteran suffering from PTSD by watching documentaries, field study and socializing with the homeless population.

 

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Known as the Sunshine City, St. Petersburg has the perfect cinematic landscapes and amazing artwork all over the city. It also has a large population of homeless individuals, families and veterans.

Filmmakers Jabaar Edmond and Cranstan Cumberbatch aim to not only bring awareness to St. Pete’s homeless population but to also shatter the stereotype of who a homeless person is in their film entitled “Art in the City.”

Art in the City from Jabaar Edmond on Vimeo.

“Art in the City” tells the story of a homeless war veteran named Danny, played by Cumberbatch, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Danny meets a woman who helps him use art to self-medicate. He eventually sells his artwork and finds success in the St. Pete art scene.

Edmond got the concept for the film when making a documentary about the homeless population that lived in “tent city” across the street from St. Vincent De Paul on Third Avenue North.

While shooting, he met a homeless war veteran who was also a former mailman. As he began to tell his story, Edmond realized that he needed to educate himself on the correlation between veterans and homelessness.

Spotlight, ae

“He began to tell me his story and I realized that a lot of people didn’t really understand that a large percentage of veterans are homeless here in St. Pete,” he explained. “The face of homelessness wasn’t quite what I imagined so I was sure other people didn’t know.”

Edmond decided to write a fictional story that could bring the information to light in a respectful manner, but at the same time be truthful to the circumstances. His documentary entitled “Will Work for Food” became the basis for “Art in the City.”

The film, which made its debut in Jan. of this year at the Sunshine City Film Festival at Sundial, was co-written, co-directed and co-produced by both Edmond and Cumberbatch. Since its debut, it has been shown at the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, The Studio@620, American Stage, at city hall for the mayor and city council, just to name a few places.

“We’ve had a tremendous showing of this film and it’s toured all over the city,” said Edmond. “We’ve had a lot of good reviews and that’s really been the catalyst for us showing it so many times.”

Saturday, Dec. 9 at 3pm, “Art in the City” will be screened at its largest venue to date, the Palladium Theater at 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg.

When Cumberbatch inquired about showing their film there, the only booking they could get was Dec. 9.

“With such a huge opportunity, we just had to go for it,” said Edmond.

With not much time to promote, they are still hopeful it will sell out because of the subject matter.

“You rarely hear about stories pertaining to African-American veterans, so this is unique because it is centered on a black war vet who overcomes adversity to become a successful artist in St. Pete, the city of the arts,” Edmond said.

By linking the two subjects together, the filmmakers hope to bring awareness to programs that serve veterans such as the Rapid Re-housing program at St. Vincent de Paul and the Beacon House. They feel that it’s all about connecting the veterans with the programming.

The film brings light to the communication gap between service providers and the people who they wish to serve. During the process of writing the film, Edmond spoke with caseworkers and found out that there are a lot of unused resources.

“We want to reinforce that there is help out there and there are ways to get help.”

After the Dec. 9 screening, there will be a panel discussion with veteran Benjamin Smet and Retired Master Sergeant Milton White both from the University of South Florida, Bob Devin Jones, co-founder of The Studio@620 and others.

The discussion will open up a dialogue about PTSD, the art scene in St. Pete, homeless matters and possible solutions.

“Maybe we can fill in the gap and help someone get in contact with an agency or group that they might not have known about, or maybe we can help an agency or group connect with another agency or group,” said Edmond.

Tickets are $10 and organizations and nonprofits are urged to sponsor a row of seating for $100 for veterans, homeless individuals, artist and advocates for PTSD.

For more information, please contact Jabaar Edmond at (727) 320-6264 or jabaaredmond@ymail.com.

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