Surviving Friendly Fire

2000 | Documentary / Mental Health / Parenting/Family / Race and Culture / Social Issues / Suicide / Theatre/Performance Art / Youth (18 & Under) | 60m | USA
Directors: Todd Nelson

There are over a million homeless youth on the streets of America; thousands of these youths live on the streets of Hollywood. They are runaways, some are “throwaways,” abandoned or forcefully exiled from their families’ homes. The average age of these youths is 15. About a third of them are LGBTQ. In their survival these young people endure familial abuse, suicide attempts, drugs and alcohol, prostitution, and life on the streets.

In 1992, seventy homeless youths—of various racial, cultural and sexual identities—registered for a theatre project in the Hollywood shelter where they lived. Through this project they were encouraged to share their stories. Over a period of seven months these stories were shaped into monologues, scenes, and songs. Of the original seventy, ten completed the project and became performers, playing the roles from each others’ lives. In 1993, their play, “Friendly Fire,” was the centerpiece of the prestigious Los Angeles Festival before it toured to high acclaim in high schools throughout the city. The 2000 documentary Surviving Friendly Fire is a documentary about ten teenagers who endured incredible cruelties and hardships, and found the courage to tell their story.

Reviews and Awards

Best Documentary Feature, Great Plains Festival

Award of Merit, San Luis Obispo Documentary Film Festival

“An inspirational, worthwhile venture into the subject of artistic endeavor redeeming like, Surviving Friendly Fire is a documentary that focuses on homeless gay adolescents who come together to make a theatrical production. The interviews, many of the runaways recall their neglected youth, their drug and alcohol-abusing parents, and the violence at there homes. One was kicked out by his parents after his father stabbed him in the arm. The making of the theatrical show is documented, together with snippets of the performances and clips showing the youngsters’ feelings about the project. The show was said to be one of the highlights of the 1993 Los Angeles Festival and toured L.A. area high schools. Ten teens were cast in the show that featured songs, monologues and dialogue. It’s a vital, vitriolic and often entertaining offering. Most notably, the project helped some youngsters get a leg up and find careers, although others remained on the streets. —Michael Farkash, The Hollywood Reporter