No Place Like Home

Barbie at 10

Barbie at 10

No Place Like Home

16mm film
broadcast on PBS, 1995 (P.O.V.)

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

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 cheap motels on Aurora Avenue, a seedy forgotten stretch of prosperous Seattle. Over the course of eight months, the film documents the daily life of the 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 primary 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. The patterns of generations begin to appear in Barbara’s resignation, her acceptance of the unacceptable.

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, but it shows us, through the eyes of one young girl, the questions. The film’s most telling moment comes when Barbara acknowledges her desire to see her absent father again. ”Just because he beat me,” she insists, ”doesn’t mean I can’t love him, does it?”