For much of the past decade, documentarians Sean Clark and Jace Freeman — collectively dubbed “The Moving Picture Boys” — have been exploring the city of Nashville, looking for the stories the chamber of commerce won’t tell. Their provocative and affecting feature “Saint Cloud Hill” is a fine example of the work they’ve been doing, finding the human angle in difficult civic issues.
The film’s title refers to an undeveloped section of a public park, where some of the local homeless have constructed a semi-permanent tent city, loosely governed by a righteous man named “Captain” Chris Scott. With the help of activists and lawyers, the Captain fights for the residents’ rights against policemen and legislators who see their squatting as potentially dangerous.
“Saint Cloud Hill” doesn’t frame its subjects as saints, nor do Clark and Freeman presume they don’t present a real problem to the authorities. These men fight sometimes; and they’re not all as clean-living and hard-working as their Captain.
But the movie takes the time to show what Chris Scott and his cohorts give each other: a sense of community and support, which makes them less of a nuisance together, encamped, than they might be if they were driven out of their makeshift homes and forced to roam the city.
“Saint Cloud Hill” is often dramatic, capturing tense standoffs between cops and vagrants. But this documentary is also filled with hope, and admiration for all those visionaries who see how neglected people and places can be put to good use.
Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes
Playing: Starts Nov. 22, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood