Tucson photographer and filmmaker Patrick McArdle has spent years documenting the life and struggles of homeless populations. First spending six months photographing the homeless in San Diego in stark black and white, McArdle says that project felt unresolved because of the city’s lack of effort to fix the problem. But in Tucson, an army veteran’s work to help inspired McArdle’s latest project, “Here Comes That Dreamer.” The full documentary will be screening at the MSA Annex from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 18.
McArdle filmed his documentary on the streets of Tucson from 2015 to 2020, taking two years off in the middle during his own struggles with cancer. While covering a variety of people, the documentary partly focuses on Jon McLane, an Iraq war veteran with PTSD who is leading the Veteran Rescue Mission, with the objective of minimizing veteran and civilian recidivism and suicide rates.
“My intent is to show the public that there are solutions, you just have to be active and be willing to make it happen,” McArdle said. “I hope this documentary changes something.”
McArdle met McLane right at the beginning of filming, originally interested in McLane’s project “Safe Park.” The effort saw multiple boxes set up in Veinte De Agosto Park downtown to provide shelter for the homeless, but was eventually closed after a legal fight with the city.
McLane, now an ordained minister, helped introduce McArdle to the homeless population for filming.
“Their responses ranged anywhere from ‘I don’t care,’ to ‘you can’t do that, you’re violating my privacy rights’,” McArdle said. “But I’d go down there with Jon mainly, and he’d introduce me to folks in the community and after he introduced me and I spent some time there. It didn’t take long for them to start to trust me. As I was talking with them, I’d set up my tripod and it created a nice conversational environment.”
McLane’s Veteran Rescue Mission, a registered 501(c)3 non-denominational Christian organization, now operates on an acre of land off Ina with trailers and tiny houses for the homeless. Though they’ve since moved from downtown, the organization is still facing legal roadblocks with the county. In 2019, they received a letter regarding their zoning issues, limiting their ability to develop on the property.
“He’s an idealist, motivated and ambitious,” McArdle said. “He’s got a big heart and is always ready to help others and do what is necessary… I focused on him because he was an idea man. This guy’s innovative and is risking his freedom for others.”
Although Veteran Rescue Mission is not a perfect project, McArdle said it got him interested as a subject because it offers a “possible solution,” and served as an initiative that was not present in other cities.“
That’s one of the reasons I got excited about this documentary; there was a solution,” McArdle said. “Tucson is more responsive to citizens’ demands and concerns. When I first started doing the documentary, Tucson had concerns but still treated them like bums. But Jon’s actions made people more aware, whereas in San Diego the city didn’t seem to care all that much.”
McArdle is the sole producer of the documentary, which he regards as a "passion project on a zero budget." Though the possible solutions are inspiring, the documentary also shows the difficult and alarming reality of homelessness, from addiction to mental illness.
“I hope the people who see it realize what street life is really like. There’s a lot of documentaries about homelessness, but they sort of center on one person and follow them around,” McArdle said. “But this shows the fights and the camaraderie, and the horror of it all. But importantly, it also shows how people can get active and out of those situations, and do something about it. Jon’s actions and his protests actually made a difference.”
“Here Comes That Dreamer” will be screening from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 18 at the Mercado San Agustin Annex, 267 South Avenida del Convento.
Tickets are $20, for sale at the door. The documentary will be preceded by a short film “Transformation of Sorrow" in remembrance of those who lost their lives to homicide. Between the two films there will be 15 minute performances by singer/songwriter Mitzi Cowell, and visual artist and singer/songwriter To-Ree-Nee Wolf. “Here Comes That Dreamer” is also available for rental on vimeo.com
For more information, visit herecomesthatdreamer.com