"AMERICAN WINTER," SPOTLIGHTING CHALLENGES FACING MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILIES IN ECONOMIC CRISIS, THE NECESSITY OF 211 SOCIAL SERVICE HOTLINES AND THE RAPID DECLINE OF SAFETY NETS, DEBUTS MARCH 18, EXCLUSIVELY ON HBO
Emmy(R) Winners Joe And Harry Gantz Direct And Produce
For countless middle-class families who have experienced job loss or an unexpected financial setback, the American Dream has become an American nightmare. Working families who once seemed to be on a path to economic security have discovered how quickly they can slip from the middle class into poverty. Directed by Emmy(R) winners Joe and Harry Gantz (HBO's "Taxicab Confessions"; "The Defenders"), AMERICAN WINTER spotlights struggling Oregon families who called the state's 211info social services hotline for help in winter 2012. Debuting MONDAY, MARCH 18 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO, the film reveals the human consequences of rising economic insecurity.
Other HBO playdates: March 21 (4:30 p.m.), 23 (10:30 a.m.), 26 (8:00 a.m., 12:05 a.m.), 29 (3:00 p.m.) and 31 (1:15 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: March 20 (8:00 p.m.) and April 13 (3:15 p.m.) and 18 (4:30 p.m.)
The latest U.S. census data shows that 48.5 million Americans - including 16.1 million children - are living in poverty, the largest number in the 53-year history of published poverty estimates. Even as the economy slowly recovers from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, an increasing number of families are caught in a daily struggle to meet basic needs. At the same time, the social safety net intended to help those in crisis has been weakened by budget cuts, creating a perfect storm of greater need and fewer resources for the vulnerable.
Viewed through the stories of eight families, AMERICAN WINTER reveals the devastating fallout of the mortgage meltdown, unemployment, the health care crisis and a shrinking social safety net. Included in the film are interviews with local economic experts, policy analysts, religious leaders and social workers.
AMERICAN WINTER highlights the work of Portland's 211info referral hotline, which connects callers with community resources and social services. The families profiled in the film were among thousands calling 211 during the winter months last year. As one operator explains, "I can't count the number of people I've spoken with who start their conversation with, 'I never believed I would be in this situation.' They say, 'I have always worked.'" But now they are unable to find work, or cannot find jobs that pay enough to address their basic needs.
Featured in the film are:
TJ and Tara - After TJ gets laid off from his job, he and his wife, Tara, struggle to provide for their three children on her minimum-wage income. Forced to choose between paying their mortgage or their electricity bill, the family recalls what it's like to have no lights and no heat in the middle of winter.
John and Geral - John, 50, is now facing a third year of unemployment and despairs that he'll soon lose his ranch. Growing discouraged with his fruitless job hunt, he must also cope with feelings of shame when he is forced to apply for food stamps to feed himself and his ten-year-old son Geral, who has Down syndrome.
Brandon and Pam - With Brandon frustrated by a series of close calls on the job front, Pam is forced to go with her two young sons to a women's shelter to get assistance with basic provisions. Unable to pay rent, the family moves into Pam's mother's two-bedroom apartment.
Diedre - Though college-educated, Diedre was laid off from her job along with 1500 other employees during the recession, and has turned to donating plasma and selling scrap metal to make ends meet for her family of five.
Ben and Paula - After working at the credit branch of a car company, Ben was laid off and quickly fell behind on their mortgage. As the family copes with the trauma of losing their home to foreclosure, they also struggle to pay for basics.
Shanon - A single mother, Shanon got into debt because her 12-year-old daughter suffers from a stomach condition requiring hospitalization, causing her to miss three months of work. Hit with expensive medical bills that her insurance company will not cover, Shanon is now struggling to pay the rent.
Mike and Heather - Mike, Heather and their five children are left without water, electricity or heat, and have turned to a generous neighbor to run an extension cord from his garage. Completely demoralized, Mike can't even afford gas to go and look for a job.
Jeannette and Gunner - When Jeannette's husband died recently, she and her 11-year-old son, Gunner, were left to fend for themselves. Unable to keep their home, they slept in a garage and in their car before ending up in a shelter.
AMERICAN WINTER was produced with support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, whose mission is to transform lives and strengthen communities by fostering innovation, creating knowledge and promoting social progress.
Emmy(R) winners Joe and Harry Gantz are the creators of HBO's "Taxicab Confessions," which debuted in 1995 and continues as one of the longest-running documentary series to this day.
For more on the film, visit facebook.com/HBODocs and twitter.com @HBODocs #AmericanWinter.
AMERICAN WINTER is directed by Joe Gantz; producers, Joe and Harry Gantz; co-producers, Aaron I. Butler and Devon Terrill; co-director, Harry Gantz; editor, Aaron I. Butler; music, Joel Goodman; directors of photography, Patrick Thelander and Dan Morris. For HBO: supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.