“The Truth About Stanley” approaches homelessness from alternate angle

The Truth About Stanley

Producer Tom Clark discusses his somber 20-minute film circulating on YouTube. 

There is no singular truth to be found in The Truth About Stanley, an unsettling and oddly inspirational short film that recently premiered on YouTube.

There’s no clear resolution or call to action, either. Instead, the 20-minute film tells a unique story about a homeless Congolese man (Oliver Litondo) and a young boy (Raif Clarke) who finds refuge from the streets in the elder’s stories and antics. “No home, no belongings, plenty of baggage,” reads the film’s apt summary on YouTube.

Directed by Lucy Tcherniak and shot in five days in London late last year, The Truth About Stanley aims to address the issue of homelessness—albeit in abstract terms. The narrative is nonlinear and inconclusive, leaving interpretation up to the viewer.

“We are all human beings, even those on the streets,” producer Tom Clark told the Daily Dot.

“We all have back stories. We all have emotions, truths and lies. There is also an aesthetic difference between the starker realities of life of the streets and the warmer glow of fantasy that people sometimes descend into to escape from and cope with those realities.”

The Truth About Stanley isn’t your average online indie production, though. The film’s backed by Oscar-winning production company Trademark (My Week with Marilyn) and law firm Freshfields, the official legal partners of the London 2012 Olympics. It also boasts contributions by Radiohead (“Give Up the Ghost”) and Mumford & Sons (“I Gave You All”), along with a poignant piano score by composer Jon Opstad.

Released on YouTube on April 3, the film has only garnered 11,000 views, but the reviews—online and in print publications—have been extremely positive. (The Independent gave it five stars.)

“What an amazing production!” wrote h20melonlays on YouTube. “I’m so proud of independent films today. This was very moving and well done.”

“This is a wonderful short film,” added RJ Evans on Vimeo, where the movie has collected an additional 10,000 views. “[H]opefully it will highlight was has become a major issue in the UK once again.”

Unlike “Kony 2012,” the film’s most obvious comparison, The Truth About Stanley is almost an infomercial in disguise, spotlighting a major issue more through its sparse, bleak cinematography than its storyline. But it makes its intention known with the following note at the end of the film:

“England has seen a 23% increase in rough sleeping in just 12 months. In London alone, nearly 4,000 people were reported sleeping rough during 2010 and 2011.”

The video’s summary and website includes information for how to text or pledge support online to the personal crisis charity The Big Issue Foundation and residential, nonprofit life-skills center Anchor House.

Clark hopes that message will resonate with viewers and slowly but surely make an impact across the Web.

“We offer the film to the world to watch for free and if they are inspired to donate then cool,” Clark said. “If not then at least they have watched what we hope to be a great little film and maybe they will show [or] share [it] and the next person is the one who will donate.”

Austin Powell

Austin Powell

Austin Powell is the former managing editor of the Daily Dot. His work focuses on the intersection of entertainment and technology. He previously served as a music columnist for the Austin Chronicle and is the co-author of The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology.