“Last time I asked for God’s help, He put me here,” 16-year-old Apple Bailey angrily tells the priest visiting her in the hospital following a car accident.
“Perhaps you’re exactly where you’re meant to be,” the priest responds.
That exchange in the movie Gimme Shelter (in wide release on January 24) eventually leads to an epiphany for Apple (Vanessa Hudgens), who is homeless, pregnant, and struggling to escape from the grip of her abusive, drug-addicted mother (Rosario Dawson). Though she seeks help from the rich father (Brendan Fraser) she’s never met, he can’t fully accept her situation.
When a street thug threatens Apple, she steals a car and gets into the aforementioned accident. And though she can’t see it at the time, that seemingly-tragic event is what sets her on a course to find love and family in ways she’s never before experienced at a shelter run by Kathy DiFiore (Ann Dowd).
The idea of being “where you’re meant to be” could also apply to the story behind the making of the film. One day, someone asked filmmaker Ronald Krauss the fateful question, “Have you heard about this shelter that’s helping young women get off the streets?”
Though Krauss hadn’t heard of DiFiore, he visited the shelter while staying at his brother’s house for the holidays. As Krauss explained to me during a Christopher Closeup interview, “I didn’t have any intention of doing anything. Then I got so touched by some of these young girls’ lives…One of the girls that I met had walked 25 miles to get there, and I helped her into the shelter. That was transformative for me! It reached into my heart that I had helped somebody…I approached Kathy one day and said, ‘I think more people need to find out about this place because this [story] could spread kindness and compassion.’ I never expected it to be this film, but it just blossomed.”
….People who have seen Gimme Shelter during its early limited release have been changed as well. Krauss says, “People are brought to tears – tears of joy, hope, compassion and love.” DiFiore calls it “a movement” instead of just a movie, noting that young people lined up after screenings to hug her and tell her they felt like their lives were reflected onscreen. “The movie is almost like a healing experience,” she says.
For DiFiore, her mission of healing the girls in her shelters doesn’t end when their babies are born. She explains, “We have a Special Families program. They have 165 children. All of those children were children that were born into our shelters, and we tell the mothers, ‘We will help you until your baby’s eighteen-years-old….’”
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