A documentary that dives deep into the battle over a homeless encampment at Nashville’s Fort Negley is debuting this week.
In 2016, filmmakers spent six months with unchecked access to the encampment. They witnessed daily life and tense moments, such as nighttime visits by police, the eventual eviction of about 50 residents and Metro’s destruction of the camp and clear cutting of trees.
The documentary ultimately feels like a narrative film, with characters and intimate camerawork. It does not include typical documentary interviews or showy graphics, and instead relies on a “fly on the wall” method of embedding and observing.
Local directors Jace Freeman and Sean Clark say the film is meant to spark conversation about homelessness, mental health and gentrification. They plan to host local screenings and discussions.
“If you’re a city on the rise, it’s interesting that homelessness is caused by prosperity rather than the worst of times,” Freeman said. “It does seem like a very relevant story and conversation to be happening at this moment in time in Nashville’s history.”
Freeman said camp closures have pushed people farther into the woods and into deeper isolation — making some impossible to reach as the team prepared to show the film.
Titled “Saint Cloud Hill” after the historical name of the land where the fort stands, the documentary will begin airing on PBS stations across the South at 11 p.m. Thursday. A national premiere on PBS World Channel will follow, as well as wider online distribution.