By Christina Wilkie - 07/21/10 11:44 PM EDT
Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, the youngest daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), is best-known for making documentaries on political topics. Over the course of six films, she’s tackled the Tea Party movement, George W. Bush and the media’s coverage of political campaigns.
But her latest project, she insists, is not a political comedy. It’s a tragedy.
The origin of the film, Pelosi explained to ITK, was a question from her 3-year-old son.
“We live in New York, and my son asked me one day, ‘Mommy, why is that man sleeping on the street?’ ”
The question, paired with a statistic Pelosi heard (that one in 50 American children are homeless), led the Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker on a yearlong odyssey that eventually found her living in a cheap motel on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
In the shadow of Disneyland, Pelosi met and filmed a group of kids who live on the edge of society. Their parents often work two jobs but can’t afford to buy or rent homes, so the families live week to week in motels. They eat in soup kitchens, and the children go to a special school for “transient” (read: homeless) kids.
“I went to the first graduation from this school,” Pelosi said, “and I met the families of these kids, and they’re just so different from the homeless people you’re used to seeing.
“These people work in Wal-Mart and McDonald’s and Disneyland, and they just can’t afford housing.”
Pelosi spent three months living among homeless families, where she worked without a film crew.
She even introduced her two young children to many of her subjects. “My husband [Dutch TV correspondent Michiel Vos] would bring them to visit me,” she explained, “and we’d go to soup kitchens, parks or just hang out in the motel.”
Asked whether any of the people she filmed knew about her mother’s day job, Pelosi laughs, “Oh, God, no, that wouldn’t mean anything to these people. They’ve got much bigger things to worry about than politics.”
Making a movie about poverty set in ultra-wealthy Orange County gave a lot of the scenes a feeling of irony, Pelosi said. But she stopped short of classifying the film as a “cause.”
“This isn’t a cause movie, and I’m not passing the hat around after the film asking for donations,” she said.
“But for a county that’s home to more reality TV shows than anywhere in America, here’s a slice of reality.”