Joe Campo, founder of Brooklyn-based Grassroots Films, recently visited the University of Notre Dame for a screening of the independent film studio’s newest documentary, Outcasts. The hour-long documentary captures a close-up view of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and their work with the hungry, the dying, the addicted, and other individuals cast off from society.
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal were founded in 1987 with eight friars and have grown to a community of about 100 men. Campo has worked with the friars for several decades at the St. Francis House in Brooklyn where suffering young men can find stability and a new start in life. He began Grassroots Films in 2006 to provide members of the household with meaningful work.
Outcasts was filmed over seven years in five countries—the United States, Ireland, England, Honduras and Nicaragua. It is the fourth documentary from Grassroots Films, also the creators of The Human Experience and Child 31. Screenings of Outcasts began in the summer of 2016.
Campo, executive producer and co-director of the film, answered questions for Church Life Journal about Outcasts which can be scheduled for screenings across the United States and in other countries.
How did you begin working with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal?
I first started working with the friars because of the St. Francis House. Fr. Benedict Groeschel started the home back in 1967 and he was going to close the home in 1988–89 because he couldn’t get anyone crazy enough to go there until I showed up. I became friends with the friars and I ran another project called Youth 2000 which are Eucharistic centered retreats for young people. From that grew Grassroots Films.
How are the young men at St. Francis House involved in making the films?
The young men in St. Francis House really weren’t college-bound and I wanted to create something where they would have a career. They are all very talented. First of all, I have to say God gives everyone at least one talent. I truly believe that. He’s given me the gift of recognizing that talent in people and pulling it out. The young men at the St. Francis House made a film called The Human Experience and they were also involved in editing, writing, directing, producing, just about everything you could think of for Outcasts.
What was your intention for filming Outcasts?
Honestly, I just wanted to tell a good story. There’s an authenticity to the friars and they could get us to the “outcasts.’’ I thought it would be something people would be interested in, people would like, and also bring in certain life situations that the “outcasts” go through that normally people who live a bit of a sheltered life would never have an opportunity to know and witness. I thought the information on the poor was extremely important to get out and so did the friars. They allowed us to do it.
Was it difficult to get people to speak on camera for the film?
I asked a few people why they would let us film them. Everybody had the same reaction. “We don’t want the same thing to happen to other people that happened to us.” They were trying to help.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the documentary?
No one will walk away with the same thing. There are many layers to this film. My hope is that it would bring dignity to the “outcasts” and perhaps a call to action. If someone is really touched by what they saw, they can go within their own families and communities and offer some assistance. You don’t have to go to Honduras, Nicaragua, Ireland, England to help people. Most people today have someone in their family who is struggling. I hope this would bring them close to someone in their family or at least to an understanding to remove some of that negativity and even the hate people have for each other.
What practical advice would you offer for people to get involved serving the world’s outcasts?
A good place to start is a food pantry. You get to meet people right off the bat. They will come in for the holidays to get their turkey or ham and you can easily strike up a conversation with any of these people. Most of the people don’t want to be there. They are there because they have to be there. When you are friendly to them and make it a point to ask their name, anything can happen. But you have to make the first step and take the initiative.
What can people do to bring a screening of Outcasts to their area?
Go to www.outcaststhemovie.com and submit the inquiry form for a screening. Someone will contact you almost immediately. Screenings have been done at universities, colleges, and high schools throughout the world. There’s no place we won’t go as long as we are invited.