“Hello Stranger! Never mind this crazy walk, I only do this for fun sometimes. Say hello to The Homeless Guy!” These words – melodically delivered over a tension-filled electronic soundscape to a visual montage of a middle-aged man in jeans and black sweater, dark glasses and Seahawks hat obscuring his face, walking herky-jerky along a roadside, arms flailing – announce Robin Ray as a cinematic force to be reckoned with.
Major Nobody, Ray’s entry to the 2020 Social Justice Film Festival, is a 14:23 tour de force that brings us right into Ray’s experience as an amazingly creative and perceptive human who has lived much of his life without a home.
His first film, Major Nobody, is wholly a product of Ray’s immense talent. He wrote, shot, acted in, played the music for, and edited the piece, which offers a combination slice of Ray’s life and “peek inside his brain.”
Much of Major Nobody features Ray’s voice over b-roll of scenes around Port Townsend, where he now lives. A combination of chatty episodic narration and finely crafted twists of phrases, the dialogue underscores Ray’s writing chops. His visual imagery is similarly creative and concise, beautifully supporting his narrative with outdoor imagery and select special effects.
Floating along the beautiful scenery and perceptive commentary is a deep current of paranoia and fear from his life on the streets, which oscillates between “I could hide right out in the open,” and “You ever have that feeling you’re being watched? Every day?”
About three quarters of the way in, the film switches from voiceover to Ray on camera addressing us directly, “I’ve often wondered about madness, are they looking for me?”
For a couple of years, Ray lived in transitional housing at Solid Ground’s Santos Place, on our housing campus in Magnuson Park. I had the pleasure of interviewing him in early 2018 about his then latest book You can’t sleep here: A clown’s guide to surviving homelessness.
When he left our program, Ray’s affinity for nature took him to Forks and later to Port Townsend. “This is how I should spend the rest of my life,” he tells us from deep in the woods, “hidden away forever.”
Near the film’s end is a classic chase scene through the woods, but all we see is Ray running, chased by his invisible demons. “I give up,” he says when he can go no further, “Don’t shoot.”
In a brief introduction taped specially for the festival, Ray tells us: “I hope people watching this film will understand a little bit more about what is like to have mental health issues and deal with homelessness at the same time. It’s not easy. It’s a struggle.”
Let’s hope that Ray can keep his internal demons at bay and find the support he needs to continue making compelling films. He’s a man with something to say and the skills to say it well.
Major Nobody is one of four films that comprise Block 23: Poverty in America of the 2020 Social Justice Film Festival. The block is available to screen throughout the festival, which runs through October 11, 2020. Other blocks focus on issues ranging from healthcare to the climate change, LGBTQ culture to women’s rights, and much more. Solid Ground is proud to sponsor the festival!