What I Saw

I often felt when I was making documentary films that I crossed an invisible but very real border between one country and another, from the country inhabited by of those of us who don’t worry about where our next meal is coming from, to the country-within-our-country where food, shelter, and safety are daily concerns and loss is at the center of every story.

One fifth of American children live in poverty—its predictable wreckage marks them early. I saw many young children in the neighborhoods in which I filmed already convinced of their unworthiness. They understood exactly where they stood in society. And they blamed themselves. By adolescence, many had come to believe they deserved their fate, they had given up hope, they had surrendered to a future someone else had imagined for them.

Comforter, where, where is your comforting?

— Gerard Manley Hopkins, “No worst, there is none”


Take This Heart, feature documentary
For Generations to Come, five-part documentary series
No Place Like Home, documentary, Emmy Award
Teiko Tomita, documentary, Emmy Award nomination
Queen of the Market, documentary
New Treatments for Breast Cancer, documentary

Take this Heart

Take This Heart is a feature documentary that chronicles the stories of a handful of young boys living in foster care and documents their struggle to make sense of their harsh fates. The film seeks to illuminate the dark sense of loss and emptiness borne by these children. Take this Heart was broadcast on PBS and received the Anna Quindlen Award for Excellence in Journalism.

For the nearly one million American children who are compelled—often for their own safety—to live in foster care, daily life is a forbidding venture. Cast adrift at an early age, dispossessed of everyone they have known or loved (often the very adults who have abused or abandoned them), they are left to grow up in a world that has proven profoundly unreliable, with strangers who may or may not offer comfort and protection.

Take This Heart is the story of three boys: Robert, Jamil (above), and Joaquin have been passed from one foster home to the next, eventually landing in the care of Tess Thomas, a state-funded foster mother. Thomas sees her work with children as “God’s purpose for me,” and it is clear that her commitment derives from a fierce and serene spirit. Take This Heart explores the experiences of a few children in one foster home in Seattle and attempts to make visible an invisible population of children otherwise consigned to silence at the margins of society.

Director Kathryn Hunt
Producers Jane Gibbons and Kathryn Hunt
Music Bruce Hunt

No Place Like Home

Barbie Wilson

No Place Like Home is distributed and available for purchase from Berkeley Media.

No Place Like Home is the story of a young girl, Barbara Fay Wilson, who lives with her mother, brother, and sister in homeless shelters and seedy motels on Aurora Avenue, a forgotten stretch of prosperous Seattle. The film was broadcast nationally on PBS, as part of the POV series, and premiered at the Venice Film Festival and was shown at festivals in Cork, Lisbon, Melbourne, Sydney, Paris, and St. Petersburg, Russia, among others. It won film festival awards in Chicago, San Francisco, and Atlanta.

Over the course of eight months, No Place Like Home documents the daily life of Barbie Wilson’s family. The Wilsons spend their days stretching welfare checks and shuttling between shelters while they wait for public housing and a future that doesn’t seem to arrive. Barbara’s mother, Lori, recounts a childhood of abuse and violence, and explains that she has always felt like an outsider. ”I don’t know if I do it to myself,” she says, ”or if I’ve just gotten used to it.” As Barbara tells her story, trying to make sense of a legacy of domestic violence, poverty, and abandonment, she emerges as the target of her own anger. Only ten-years old, she’s “tired of moving, tired of packing, tired of everything.” She speaks dispassionately about being beaten by her father, about homelessness and the fears it engenders, and about her mother’s prior imprisonment on drug charges. Her eerie calm belies the dangers she faces, and it becomes clear that the loss of her home is only the most recent in a long series of losses.

No Place Like Home quietly observes the cycles that keep families tied to poverty and violence, one generation to the next. It makes no pretense at answers; rather, attempting to show, through the eyes of one young girl, the questions.

Director Kathryn Hunt
Cinematography James Nicoloro
Editor James Nicoloro
Music Bruce Hunt