March 14, 2019

The Public

January 2019, we exhibited at ALA Midwinter in Seattle. This year’s attendees were invited to join actor/director Emilio Estevez for a screening of ‘The Public’.

The Public was shot on location in the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCHC) and tells the story about one night an unusually bitter Arctic blast made its way to downtown Cincinnati and landed at the front doors of the library. The library has served as a de-facto daytime homeless shelter for the poor and marginalized.

At odds with the library staff and officials over how to handle the extreme weather front, the patrons turn the library into an emergency homeless shelter for the night by staging a sit-in. What starts as an act of civil disobedience become a standoff with police and a news-hungry reporter eager to boost rating, sensationalizing and criminalizing their activity.

A David-versus-Goliath story for our times, ‘The Public’ tackles some of today’s challenging issues; homelessness, mental illness, addiction and the militarization of law enforcement, all set inside one of the last bastions of – Your Public Library.

Estevez, who wrote, produced and directed the film, plays one of the librarians on duty that night, heading a strong cast featuring Jena Malone, Christian Slater, Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Gabriele Union, Michael Kenneth Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Ki Hong Lee, Richard T, Jones, and Alex Vargas.

After the film, Estevez and Dowd hosted a very honest questions and answers session.  Estevez explained his motivation behind the film, which started 12 years ago when he was regularly patronizing the Los Angeles Public Library, carrying out research for a film, only available on microfiche. On April 1, 2007, he picked up the Los Angeles Times and read an article by Chip Ward, who had recently left his position as assistant director of the Salt Lake City Public Library, titled “Written off: A librarian’s Days Among the Chronically Homeless.” So moved by this piece, and along with his own observations from his experience when researching at LAPL, Estevez knew then that this was to be his next film. Witnessing a community of people, who during the day when shelters are closed, spend their entire day at the library, until closing time.

After a period of a few years, some obstacles and location change from Los Angeles, to Cincinnati, filming commenced in January 2017 and took 22 days. And 35 years after his time in detention spend in the library in The Breakfast Club, here he is, back in the library!

 The film was first shown at ALA Annual in New Orleans, then followed showings at Toronto International Film Festival and Palm Springs.  The official will be released in US theatres from April 5. Our recommendation is go and see it, discuss it, share it, spread the word. Together the library community can make some noise and highlight the issues and the role a public library plays in the community.

To watch the trailer:





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