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'John Leguizamo Live at Rikers' shows we're more alike than some believe, while 'Live Out Loud' explores the healing power of filmmaking.

COURTESY PHOTO: PORTLAND FILM FESTIVAL - Filmmaker Melissa Gregory Rue (in purple) helped three houseless people make films, and the project became the documentary "Live Out Loud" and part of Portland Film Festival.

This story is part of our ongoing series on the Portland Film Festival. Click here for more coverage.

Two films at this year's Portland Film Festival offer space for voices that often go unheard because we have discarded their stories. In "Live Out Loud," three houseless Portlanders are given the opportunity to become filmmakers — that is, they are quite deliberately equipped to tell stories they wish to tell. One can hardly imagine a strategy that contrasts more starkly with the experience of houselessness; people in that situation, many of whom have experienced significant trauma that has contributed to their circumstances, become accustomed to being treated like a nuisance who no one wants to hear from.

Director Melissa Gregory Rue shows us how investing people's stories with significance holds the potential to heal and transform. It's a compelling contrast to the more typical strategies that aim to keep the suffering out of sight.

COURTESY PHOTO: PORTLAND FILM FESTIVAL - Comedian John Leguizamo met with inmates as part of his show "John Leguizamo: Live at Rikers," which has been shown at Portland Film Festival.In the short film "John Leguizamo: Live at Rikers," the famed actor and comedian finds his own route to a ministry of presence.

Mindful of his own upbringing in a Colombian family in Queens, Leguizamo performs his play "Ghetto Klown" at Riker's Island prison and then spends time in conversation with some of the men inside. He isn't there to preach; instead, he seeks to offer a little hope and solidarity, acknowledging his own past struggles and inviting the men to talk about their own dreams and struggles.

The film offers a small peephole into the stories of those we have caged and warehoused. May films like these fuel more appropriate curiosity and help us to be more dissatisfied with solutions that silence these voices.

"Live Out Loud" and "John Leguizamo: Live at Rikers" are available via streaming at www.portlandfilm.org through Nov. 27, and also check out the Comcast Xfinity X1 voice remote and Flex streaming service for availability.

Film reviewer Darleen Ortega is a lifelong fan of movies andwill be covering the Portland Film Festival for Pamplin Media Group. In her day job, Ortega is judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals.


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