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Motel Drive

Brendan Geraghty
United States, 2023, 62 min.

Includes adult language.

Located along a sun-bleached stretch of Fresno, "Motel Drive" is a row of historic motels that have seen better days. Originally a regional hub for performers on the circuit, Nat Cole, Sinatra and The Stones played here. Then the 99 freeway bypassed the strip, triggering a rapid decline. Today, the motels are home to sex workers, veterans, and more than 130 families. It's all ground zero for a city eager to tackle its overlapping crises of addiction, poverty and affordable housing, and finally shed its reputation as “the meth capital of America." Enter the largest infrastructure project in U.S. history: California High-Speed Rail, which breaks ground directly on Motel Drive. Over the next 7 years, this cinema vérité documentary observes the rippling impacts of this giant public project through the lens of one family, The Shaws, as they strive for the most basic of comforts — a stable home.

Director's Statement

Growing up in Los Angeles, a city at the forefront of issues like economic inequality and lack of affordable housing, I relate to the experience of transience. I grew up living with my single mother, moving 15 times in 18 years as she was continuously priced out of the housing market. With the bulk of my teen years spent in Venice Beach in particular, I also witnessed firsthand a rapid increase in the local unhoused population. After spending my mid-20s in the Peace Corps in Cape Verde, West Africa – where I was surprised by how very few people were unhoused – I returned to the U.S. in 2012 to find that our housing crisis had ballooned by an order of magnitude. With the arrival of Silicon Valley wealth to Southern California, increases in wealth disparity, and a shrinking stock of affordable housing, a new reality had arrived in my home city. And on a personal level, members of my immediate family have experienced intermittent bouts of homelessness, incarceration and addiction. For all of the above, the stories of The Shaw Family and of their 120 neighbor-families on Motel Drive, and the social crisis in which they find themselves enmeshed, all hit very close to home for me. The math and methodology used to assess homelessness in America is flawed and inconsistent, especially when it comes to families and children. As a result, this specific demographic is frequently underreported and underserved. At its core, the goal of MOTEL DRIVE is to shine a light on the lived experiences and basic human needs of this particularly overlooked population – the so-called “hidden homeless” – for a wide audience.

Category: Documentary, Feature.
Themes: Addiction, Family.

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