Is humanity lost in America?
Filmmaker Kirk Gillon asks this very question in his documentary film Breaking Bread, a story that follows 91-year-old activist Arnold Abbott as he serves plates of food to the homeless, an effort Abbott has led for more than 23 years in Fort Lauderdale -- an effort that led to his famously being cited by police last year, thus inspiring a worldwide backlash against the city.
In October 2014, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission passed an ordinance requiring folks like Abbott who host outdoor feedings for the homeless to abide by certain restrictions. They must, for instance, obtain permission from property owners and provide portable toilets and hand-washing facilities when hosting such events. Violating this ordinance could land someone in jail for up to 60 days and a $500 fine.
That didn't stop the white-haired Abbott. After the ordinance was issued, he continued his weekly feeding in downtown Fort Lauderdale, but it was shut down by police. Bystanders captured video showing police keeping doughnuts away from hungry people and leading Abbott away to be issued a citation. The video went viral, the public was outraged, and Mayor Jack Seiler was forced to play defense, contending that the ordinance was to help the homeless have access to cleaner and more sanitary feeding sites.
Abbott continued to defy the ordinance and was cited for a second time a few days later. "As long as there is breath left in my body, I will fight it," Abbott told the media. He filed a lawsuit against the city, as did two other church leaders. Currently, the cases are winding through the courts and could be combined into one lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the public outcry over Abbott's arrest led the city to temporary suspend the ordinance. Technically, it went back into effect earlier this month, but city officials have yet to decide whether to enforce it again.
In his movie, filmmaker Gillon examines the act of sharing and gifting food in society and how various cities across the country have enacted laws similar to the ones in Fort Lauderdale, seeking to drive away homeless populations. Breaking Bread looks at both sides of the homeless debate and closely follows Abbott through his legal battle and travels to more than 70 American cities as he raises awareness about feeding laws.
But the film project is in need of funding. It's listed on indiegogo.com, a fundraising website, seeking a total of $25,000. As of this morning, Gillon had raised $5,486 toward that goal. But the campaign that started January 15 will close tonight at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.
Additional funds will help the makers turn the film into a "quality feature-length documentary" and aid in its distribution. The total budget is $125,000. The filmmakers ask that donations be made through this indiegogo link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/breaking-bread-a-documentary-film