The film using dance to highlight youth homelessness during lockdown

As lockdown measures relax in the UK, homeless young people remain in crisis – watch 50 London-based dancers perform in Saam Farahmand’s moving short film, shot in May, for Centrepoint

During coronavirus lockdown, many of us have been stuck in our houses for days on end, only going out for the weekly shop or to take our government-mandated walk. For some people though, staying home hasn’t been an option. And though lockdown measures across the world ebb, flow, and lift, Saam Farahmand’s new short film aims to highlight the young people without a place to call home amid the pandemic and beyond.

The film, shot in May, highlights Centrepoint’s emergency coronavirus appeal, featuring 50 dancers from across London, performing on the street outside their houses.

“The message in the film is to be conscious of youth homelessness,” Farahmand tells Dazed, “and that even if we can only go as far as our own doorstep, let's at least make something happen there.”

Soundtracked by The Prodigy’s “Out Of Space”, the film cuts together a variety of dancers against different London backdrops. High-rises, darkened doorways, empty residential streets, small patios. Of course, all of them perform alone, observing social distancing measures.

“I figured out a safe way to film them without ever leaving my car,” says Farahmand, sharing the precautions he took to catch the dancers on camera: “With the back seats all laid flat and Eoin, my cinematographer friend, laid out shooting through the window, while I drove slowly around and shouted instructions from my window like an idiot.”

“Each had a short slot to be filmed. I drove all around London, capturing it like wildlife photography before driving off to the next one, and I've never experienced anything like it. Every single dancer was in a super intense heightened state, like a caged animal let out.” 

The result is an eclectic and energetic sequence, with dancers working in various styles, from voguers, to ballerinas, and strippers. “Some overlaps in style,” the director adds, “but every single one, as always, with their own personal language when let loose.”

Though the film was originally intended to highlight more international causes, Farahmand explains that his aims shifted while filming and communicating with the performers: “these characters overwhelmed me with what was happening right in front of me, and made me change my feelings about what this project could mean.”

The dance community’s ability to perform publicly or in collaboration with others has been limited in recent months, and many will struggle as a result. For this project though, the dancers and Farahmand dedicate the film to the urgent issue of youth homelessness, an insidious cause pre, mid, and post-pandemic. The partnership with youth homelessness organisation Centrepoint feels all the more pertinent.

“Centrepoint supports homeless youths between 16 and 25 who live and sleep on the very streets these dancers performed on,” Farahmand explains. He also hopes that the film will inspire responses from other cities across the UK, or even worldwide, adding: “This is a challenge if you want it. Step up and show London your answer.”

According to Centrepoint, over 1,000 young people have been on lockdown in Centrepoint accommodation, many of whom are self-isolating, across the recent months. As measures begin to relax, thousands more will still be at risk – job security is precarious across a multitude of industries. The organisation highlights that they’ve had a 50 per cent increase in calls to their helpline from young people in crisis, with an estimated 380,000 people experiencing ‘hidden’ homelessness in the UK right now. Some of society’s most marginalised are at heightened risk of homelessness – 24 per cent of young homeless people identify as LGBTQ+. Shelter previously raised the alarm about the UK’s ongoing BAME homelessness crisis – BAME households experiencing statutory homelessness rose 48 per cent in 2017, 

At the end of last month, news arrived that the government has promised to make 3,300 homes available within 12 months, to prevent rough sleepers housed in emergency pandemic accommodation in England going back to homelessness. A rough sleeping services budget of £160m has been brought forward. While it has been welcomed by several homelessness charities and organisations, they have highlighted another rise in rough sleepers on the streets in recent weeks, particularly in London. Calls continue for more provisions to be made. According to figures released this week, at least four homeless people have been unlawfully prosecuted for breaking lockdown laws.

Farahmand continues: “Many of Londons empty hotels, who took in countless homeless youths in recent months, will be forced to put them back on the streets now that the hospitality industry is opening up again. The message and mission of the film are and will remain as urgent as ever in coming months.”

Watch the short film above.

Donate to Centrepoint’s coronavirus emergency appeal here