Empress Hotel (2009)

Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Synopsis by Mark Deming

The Empress Hotel is located in the tough and tumble Tenderloin district in San Francisco; after years of being shuttered, it was reopened in cooperation with the city's Department of Public Health to provide rooms for the Bay Area's homeless population. Dozens of people struggling to make the transition from the streets to a newly productive life call the Empress home, and filmmakers Allie Light and Irving Saraf profile ten of its residents in this documentary. One woman holds a degree from M.I.T., but when changing technology eliminated her job, she ended up on the street and is still trying to reorient herself. A former boxer with a fierce temper has installed a punching bag in his room as an outlet for his aggression. Another man had a successful career in publishing but now believes spirits hold sway over him. A handful of addicts try to stay clean, and one former crack abuser tries to regain her health after her weight dropped to under 85 pounds. None of the folks who live at the Empress have an easy road in life, but the hotel gives them a sense of community that makes their burden just a bit easier to take. The Empress Hotel received its world premiere at the 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival.