When the 18th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival, presented by BET Networks with founding sponsor HBO, announced the 2014 festival winners this week, I was glad to find out that “Lucky” directed by Laura Checkoway won an award for Best Feature Documentary.
Having recently sat in a packed theater watching “Lucky” amidst a bunch of strangers, I must say it is one of the most unforgettable films to come out of Urbanworld this year. Forget what you know about wearing your heart on your sleeve. This movie is about a woman who, after growing up in foster homes, wears her pain on her face and body.
The documentary serves up a clear reminder of the fact that regardless of our surroundings, we know very little about what the person next to us is going through. Life is a struggle – for some more-so than others, so it helps to keep that in mind when facing people or circumstances that make us uncomfortable. Chances are that many of us know nothing about what it’s like to live on the streets. Some of us are unfamiliar with the experiences of child abuse, rape or gang life. We do, however, know what it’s like to experience struggle, at least in one capacity or another.
Checkoway, a career journalist who spent five years and her own money making “Lucky,” does a great job making this heart wrenching story relatable to the average viewer who may not know someone like Waleska Torres Ruiz – a Hispanic runaway from the Bronx, NY whose parents died when she was a child. A well-known figure in New York’s LGBT community, Ruiz was nicknamed Lucky after having survived being hit by a yellow cab when she was thirteen.
I honestly didn’t know what I was expecting when going in to watch this film but it certainly made me more aware of the hardships that children of the foster care system face when our country’s social services fail them. The long-term effects that these failures have on one person’s life have a trickle effect on those around him or her and that extends outward to our nation’s communities.
Despite not having any formal film training, Checkoway forged ahead, learning about the process as she embarked on what has become her first feature length documentary. Lucky for us, she came out of the corner swinging with a bold movie that could easily make some viewers want to look away and run back to their secure (and convenient) bubbles. No matter how hard you try, however, you can’t bear to turn from such an intimate view of one woman whose days are filled with the kind of uncertainties that most of us hope to never have to encounter. That’s just the thing about movies; when you’re in the theater and the lights go down, all you’re left with are the images on the screen.
Checkoway forces viewers to look beyond Lucky’s tattoos, stylish outfits and ever-changing hairstyles to understand the inner turmoil of the person underneath all that armor; a homeless mother who wants to provide a sense of stability for her son while working on her own personal growth, including self-love.
It’s raw and sometimes even wicked, but it’s real. This is somebody’s life and I wouldn’t be surprised that if, by watching it, you take a closer look at your own – particularly the areas that you take for granted, because I know they exist. We all have them.
“Lucky” is one of those movies that have you thinking “this person has it worse….so what’s MY excuse???” and you would be right. If there is one thing to learn from this movie, it’s to live out loud while remaining conscious of what, if anything, you want to leave behind. My congratulations go out to Laura Checkoway (and Lucky Torres) for winning Best Feature Documentary at the Urbanworld Film Festival 2014!