Emilio Estevez on Homelessness at the Toronto Premiere of The Public

Emilio Estevez premiered to the world his latest film The Public earlier this month at the Toronto Film Festival. He spoke to the Editor in Chief of Ikon London Magazine about homelessness and mental health issues.

The coveted actor, writer, and director was joined on the red carpet by the cast including Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater, and Jena Malone. He spoke in length about the serious topics of homelessness and mental health. And also, about the institution of libraries and their place in today’s society.

The Public – plot

It’s been over 30 years since Emilio Estevez has made a movie inside a library. The Breakfast Club, was the iconic ’80s teen movie shot in a library. His latest though, “The Public,” has him locked up with a different group of rebels.

After learning that emergency shelters are at full capacity when a brutal Midwestern cold front makes its way to Cincinnati, Ohio, a large group of homeless library patrons led by Jackson (Michael Kenneth Williams) refuse to leave the downtown public library at closing time. What begins as a nonviolent Occupy sit-in and ragtag act of civil disobedience quickly escalates into a standoff with local riot police, led by a no-nonsense crisis negotiator (Alec Baldwin) and a savvy district attorney (Christian Slater) with lofty political ambitions, all as two librarians (Emilio Estevez and Jena Malone) are caught up in the middle of it.

Libraries and homelessness – the real problem

The libraries are often the most obvious go-to place for the homeless. They are warm and dry and can offer a short-time relieve from the harsh weather. In a move that responds to the rise in homeless people using their branches, the Toronto Public Library has hired its first full-time social worker to deal with homelessness.

It’s a bold move that signals the importance the Toronto library is placing on offering programs for the homeless and in training its entire staff to deal better with the needs of the homeless, such as helping them to find emergency shelter, food banks, and clothing. If successful, it should be copied by big-city libraries across Canada.

Emilio Estevez about homelessness

Speaking about the homelessness with the Editor in Chief of Ikon London Magazine, Emilio Estevez admitted, “There is a lot of mental issues, like schizophrenia and there are a lot of people [on streets] who feel like if you go to a shelter that you’re going to be on your own and going to have to give your name to be processed and so on… All of this stuff pushes back against someone who has mental issues. I understand. In fact, some of the characters in the film speak about the freedom of being homeless but… [the issue still exists].”

Joe Alvarez later summarized: “So my question to him was that despite a lot of this help already being there, a lot of homeless people – through various issues including mental illness, drug abuse, alcoholism etc – turn down this help. When they are given the help, to go to these places – they run away or the end up fighting. They don’t want the ten o’clock or 11 o’clock curfew which most often these places have and so on and so on so it’s a difficult question, very difficult. Which he kind of answered appropriately. There is not much you can say.” 

Emilio Estevez praised by the Christian Slater

Christian Slater at The Public Premiere TIFF © Joe Alvarez

Christian Slater © Joe Alvarez

“One of the things I truly admire about Emilio Estevez is his abilities, his passion for writing and directing to take on real issues and raise people’s awareness and shed some light on issues that might not otherwise be played so close attention to.”

Emilio Estevez comes from a creative family. His father is acclaimed actor Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now, 1979) and his brother is Charlie Sheen. When Emilio was 11 years old, his father bought the family a portable movie camera.

His Father’s efforts paid well for the writer and director. The cast, admire him as a professional. At the premiere, Christian Slater praised Emilio: “One of the things I truly admire about Emilio Estevez is his abilities, his passion for writing and directing to take on real issues and raise people’s awareness and shed some light on issues that might not otherwise be played so close attention to.”

“Every time he writes something, it is so easy to read immediately. And I can let him know how I feel and I decided that I wanted to be a part of it.”

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Emilio Estevez at the premiere of The Premiere at the Toronto Film Festival © Joe Alvarez

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