Sure, on a sunny day in June, this city can feel like a fairy tale. But if Portland's streets are Neverland, then who are its Lost Boys? A new documentary follows a group of homeless young people, living on Portland streets while they create their own retelling of Peter Pan, on film.
The Lost Boys of Portlandia, from non-profit Outside the Frame, is a film about making a film, but it’s also about how homeless youth find a voice through a creative project, and a way to reinterpret the J.M. Barrie tale to reflect on their own experiences. The documentary by Nili Yosha is part of an upcoming evening at Revolution Hall that will showcase original film shorts by homeless youth, and a Q&A with the filmmakers.
Jacob (Jake) Averi, who features in the The Lost Boys of Portlandia, was 18 years old and had been living on the streets on and off for much of his life when the documentary was filmed. “With homeless youth, part of what sucks is it’s really hard to do anything creative,” he says, recalling his introduction to this project through the agency for homeless youth Outside In. “People really need that outlet, to create things and build things and show the world what they can do. When you’re homeless, you can’t do those things. You can’t do art projects because you’re so focused on where am I going to sleep tonight? What am I going to eat? So it’s really hard to be creative.”
The documentary follows the group's experience from concept to execution, and includes scenes from their finished work. For Averi, the project had a lasting impact. “A lot of it was just having someone believe in you,” he says simply.
“I’ve always really loved the [Peter Pan] story, and part of the thing that we had to address in the movie was comparing Neverland to being on the streets, and whether or not we would or should integrate back into society and be a part of mainstream society again,” he says.
Should the Lost Boys leave Neverland and grow up, as they do in the book, or stay with Peter Pan in Neverland, as they do in the Disney version? “Even though I’ve been off the streets for a couple of years now, it’s still something that I think about a lot, and debate a lot, whether or not I made the right decision or not,” says Averi. “It is something that we really connected with on that level.”
The Lost Boys of Portlandia screens at Revolution Hall on Tuesday, June 7. Admittance is free.