Reviews

Critic's view Green Guide The Age - April 3 2008

Some people might prefer lighter fare to a 75-minute documentary on the addiction, abuse, pregnancy and criminal convictions of some of Australia's 22,000 teenagers. But don't miss this inspiring doco on the stoic and heroic Salvation Army captain Paul Moulds, who believes "every kid deserves a 13th chance". He calls Sydney's Oasis youth refuge "a rescue shop within a yard of hell". He has the support of his wife, Robbin, also a captain. We see him contend with people battling big odds as the film focuses on seven of the many. Darren was just eight years old when Moulds found him sleeping in a hole in a wall facing an alleyway. Hayley, 21, is a heroin addict with a $600-a-day habit who sleeps in a city park and tells Moulds her dealer "treats me like a princess". Emma, 17, has a baby with Trent after helping him kick a heavy drug habit. Trent's a loving father, and reassures her when she falls pregnant again. The version airing tonight has been edited to replace the preview's story of a young man struggling to adjust after his release from jail with the account of another who has lived on the streets and under bridges since his teens and suffers mental illness. But I suspect it will be just as compelling. Filmed over two years with care, this is obviously a confronting story. But the no-nonsense Moulds, who can empathise all the more because he was adopted soon after his 17 year-old mother gave birth to him at a Salvos' maternity hospital, never loses faith. Stay tuned for the forum afterwards hosted by Lateline's Tony Jones.

Here is your shining city; and their filthy, abused young lives Doug Anderson Sydney Morning Herald television - April 10

The Oasis 8.30pm, ABC;
The most confronting documentary of the week took more than two years for Sascha Ettinger Epstein and her film crew to compile. Do you have a spare 75 minutes to absorb it?
The program follows assorted homeless kids and ferals as they pinball through the mean streets of Sydney, looking for hope and finding precious little.
The tragic irony for many is that they are great survivors, despite doing their level best to terminate their misery through drugs. In 2000 Sydeny tidied up the Olympic city by removing its drifters, park people, gutter youth and panhandlers in search of a more pristine illusion. Same thing will happen in Beijing while in Rio, disposable kids trashed and set adrift into uncertainty are hunted down by rogue police squads who insist they are exterminating vermin. No future? No hope? Or no worries?

If ever someone epitomised the desperate gratitude inherent in the slogan Thank God For The Salvos, it would be Paul Moulds, the central figure in Ettinger Epstein's lascerating film. he never gives up hope. Not that it springs eternal. But faith begets some reciprocal degree of faith - not necessarily an equal or complementary amount, but sufficient to inspire belief that tomorrow night might be better if you can hang on for it.

Viewers who haven't seen anyone freaked to the nines on ice or come face to face with the wretched, shambling scams of juvenile junkies, are in for unpalatable confrontations. Useless, indulgent adults abusing unwanted children, throwing away valid lives with criminal indifference. Kids having kids. Hayley! Is there any residual hope for a once effervescent and articulate young woman marooned in a Sargasso of fear, manipulation and loathing?
The kid crying for his mum as crystal ice phantoms gnaw on his soul? The "recovering" junkies who know that repitition of the cycle isn't inevitable but harder than gravity to escape. What sort of negativity is that?

There has been intense focus this week on the heartbreak of homelessness - on the multiple anguish of families imploding and smashed kids as collateral damage. the myth of the Lucky Country crashes and burns yet Moulds and his wife, Robbin, offer creative compassion and practical surrogacy to the endless stream of dispossesed kids stumbling through a minefield of drugs, depression, teenage-pregnancy, unemployment, criminality, incoherence, prostitution and ... you name it.
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Are the services made available to the mentally ill youngsters we met in Monday's Enough Rope at the disposal of these blighted lives? Will you tuck your children up a little more tenderly tonight and, in doing so, wonder what we can do to counteract this obscene ringbarking of a generation?

The Oasis: Australia's Homeless Youth
Sydney Morning Herald TV review Greg Hassall
Show of the Week - April 10 2008
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This excellent, confronting documentary from Ian Darling and Sascha Ettinger Epstein follows Salvation Army captain Paul Moulds and his work at the Oasis, a youth refuge in Surry Hills. Over the course of two years, the filmmakers gained extraordinary access into the lives of these kids, following them into filthy squats, filming as they smoke crack and dope, get into fights and get arrested. Seven of these kids recount their harrowing stories of abuse and neglect but it is Moulds who provides the documentary's heart and soul. These are tough kids - manipulative, abusive, often violent - and they are not easy to warm to. Moulds, however, is able to see beyond the behaviour to the damaged individual. He demands that we see the potential of these kids and understand what brought them to where they are today. His forlorn co-worker, Ken, meanwhile, provides an amusing dramatic counterpoint, every disappointment seemingly etched in his doleful features. Moulds is a remarkable man, combining heroic - some might say misguided - optimism with a complete lack of judgment. Adopted as a baby from a Salvation Army hospital, he has been an outreach worker in inner-city Sydney since he was 19. "You couldn't continue in this work ... if you never saw a glimmer of hope," he says at one point. Watching recovering drug addict Trent hold his newborn baby and promise to provide a future for her, you can only hope he's right. The documentary will be followed by a 40-minute discussion, hosted by Tony Jones, featuring an expert panel that includes Moulds, with some of the kids from the documentary in the audience. The aim is to raise awareness of youth homelessness and, more importantly, encourage people to donate money. As interesting as the talkfest may be, it is the sheer visceral impact of the documentary that will have people reaching for their wallets.

Life on the streets Sydney Morning Herald, Ruth Ritchie - April 12, 2008
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Life on the streets
HOMELESS youth aren't very sexy. They're not as exciting as climate change or pregnant men or Lara Bingle's ring. That's probably why we don't know that in Australia, every night, 22,000 teenagers are homeless. What an embarrassing, ugly statistic.

Even so, it's only a statistic, unless you are one of those kids or know one of those kids. An ad or a folk song or even a news report isn't going to change your life, or make you think, or make you sick.

There was, however, a man on TV for about an hour this week who could change your life. In 25 years of rescuing homeless kids on the streets of Sydney, Paul Moulds has already changed hundreds or even thousands of lives.

In simplest terms, The Oasis is a documentary about Oasis, the refuge in Surry Hills at which Paul Moulds and a team of Salvation Army angels work. Produced by Ian Darling (Company Of Actors), this thing took three years and plenty of grief to bring to the screen. In creative terms, the commitment of the filmmakers matches that of Moulds and company. Anything less would be meddling. The result is unique, intimate and hopefully extremely important. Director Sascha Ettinger Epstein submerged herself in an unthinkable world for years, to deliver to editor Sally Fryer hundreds of hours of astonishing footage. They tell the stories of kids we would otherwise never have met but come to know on a first-name basis.

Almost heartbreakingly relentless, Fryer and Ettinger Epstein strike a palatable rhythm in the structure of The Oasis. Day-to-day action is intercut with observations by Moulds and wife Robbin, drawing us into a world which, to outsiders, makes no sense. Between the sharp, shocking violence, these kids share moments of lucidity and insight that give the audience a rare glimpse of what Moulds sees every day: reason for hope. There's even comic light relief from Ken, a 58-year-veteran volunteer with a dry sense of humour and a withering gaze. He could be one of Benny Hill's creations but he's Oasis, he's the real thing. It is impossible to write about the main protagonists, the young survivors in this film, without resorting to sanctimonious cliche and they deserve better.

Astonishingly, these kids found Paul Moulds, and he found Ian Darling to make a serious film, not a predigested snippet of magazine TV, about their lives.
That Moulds and Darling turned up as guests on Today on Monday morning is great testament to the possibility that this effort transcends networks and ratings. Nine's generosity in directing viewers away from Gordon Ramsay and Ghost Whisperer on Thursday is in itself a terrific contribution to the cause.

I had already finished typing before the forum with Tony Jones which followed The Oasis. Hopefully this panel of experts did more than drink water. It would be a waste of such magnificent work if nothing changed. The Oasis can and must do more than spike our consciences before we flicker back to Lara Bingle's ring.
Ruth Ritchie
April 12, 2008

The Guide Sydney Morning Herald - April 8 2008
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Michael Idato and Doug Anderson video review for the Guide

The Oasis: Australia's Homeless Youth The Age - April 9 2008
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This excellent, confronting documentary from Ian Darling and Sascha Ettinger Epstein follows Salvation Army captain Paul Moulds and his work at the Oasis, a youth refuge in Surry Hills. Over the course of two years, the filmmakers gained extraordinary access into the lives of these kids, following them into filthy squats, filming as they smoke crack and dope, get into fights and get arrested. Seven of these kids recount their harrowing stories of abuse and neglect but it is Moulds who provides the documentary's heart and soul. These are tough kids - manipulative, abusive, often violent - and they are not easy to warm to. Moulds, however, is able to see beyond the behaviour to the damaged individual. He demands that we see the potential of these kids and understand what brought them to where they are today. His forlorn co-worker, Ken, meanwhile, provides an amusing dramatic counterpoint, every disappointment seemingly etched in his doleful features. Moulds is a remarkable man, combining heroic - some might say misguided - optimism with a complete lack of judgment. Adopted as a baby from a Salvation Army hospital, he has been an outreach worker in inner-city Sydney since he was 19. "You couldn't continue in this work ... if you never saw a glimmer of hope," he says at one point. Watching recovering drug addict Trent hold his newborn baby and promise to provide a future for her, you can only hope he's right. The documentary will be followed by a 40-minute discussion, hosted by Tony Jones, featuring an expert panel that includes Moulds, with some of the kids from the documentary in the audience. The aim is to raise awareness of youth homelessness and, more importantly, encourage people to donate money. As interesting as the talkfest may be, it is the sheer visceral impact of the documentary that will have people reaching for their wallets.

Helping charity harness power of doco Jane Schulze, The Australian - April 10

IAN Darling believes documentaries have the power to influence social change.
The producer and co-director of the feature length documentary The Oasis (which screens tonight on ABC1) also chairs a new philanthropic initiative to develop more documentaries focusing on social issues. The broadcast of The Oasis, which follows Salvation Army captain Paul Moulds as he tries to help homeless youth at the Oasis Centre in inner Sydney, follows this week's release of the National Youth Commission's report Australia's Homeless Youth.
The issue has been embraced by the national broadcaster: ABC1 will air a 40-minute panel discussion called The Forum with Tony Jones (featuring some of the people in the documentary) immediately after The Oasis; that program will also be webcast on abc.net.au and ABC774 will simulcast the program into Melbourne.
Mr Darling hoped similar documentaries would emerge from the Documentary Australia Foundation, which was launched last November to encourage charitable foundations to fund social issue-based documentaries.
Mr Darling said the group had been swamped with ideas and already had more than 100 documentary concepts that had passed its approval process. Now DAF is educating charitable foundations about how documentaries can inspire social change.
"We have learned from the US that foundations are happy to support documentaries if the films are about the same sort of issues (that) they support," he said.
One notable example was former eBay president Jeff Skoll's Skoll Foundation as a major backer of Al Gore's climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which put the issue of climate change on the global political agenda. Mr Darling said the Skoll Foundation's return on social capital was well ahead of its many other funding options. "It's this sort of thing we are trying to encourage here so we create a new sustainable funding stream for these documentaries," he said.
Mr Darling said philanthropically funded documentaries were virtually non-existent in Australia. "Traditionally, grant makers have not wanted to support media," he said.
"But the sorts of films that happen in the US can be five minutes long, for use in schools, or at the other end of the scale they can be films which are made for cinema release."
The makers of The Oasis hope to awaken Australians to the immense problem of youth homelessness in this country.
The 75-minute documentary, co-directed by Sasha Ettinger Epstein, was jointly funded by the ABC and Mr Darling's company Shark Island Productions. Mr Darling also chairs the Caledonia Foundation, which will deliver a free copy of the DVD and a study guide on the subject to every secondary school in Australia.
The Caledonia Foundation, which seeks to support disadvantaged young Australians, also funded the National Youth Commission report. "While it (The Oasis) was putting a face to youth homelessness, we realised that to really get the community and government to embrace the issue we needed a factual account of what was happening out there," Mr Darling said.
The report was prepared by a group of independent experts who also made numerous recommendations on how the problems should be fixed. The Rudd Government is due to release its initial response to the report at the end of April and a larger response in August.
"But the Government can't do it alone and the community needs to get behind the issue," Mr Darling said. "Coming back to An Inconvenient Truth, it was people power that made the difference to the environmental debate, and I'm hoping the same thing happens with youth homelessness."
Mr Darling said the problem had now become a "national disgrace", with the number of kids on the street doubling in the past 20 years to an estimated 40,000. "And that has happened at a time of record economic prosperity ... so we are hoping the power of the medium will play a large role in this," he said.
"We hope the community has the courage to watch this and to keep the issue on the agenda."
The 75-minute documentary was co-directed by Sasha Ettinger Epstein.
April 10, 2008

Hard, Tragic Lives The Age, Paul Kalina - April 10 2008

The statistics on youth homelessness - 22,000 on any given night in Australia - are easily glossed over. To understand what they really mean, we need only listen to the stories of abuse, deprivation, addiction and mental illness that unfold in powerful observational documentary The Oasis. Filmed in the chaotic surrounds of a Salvation Army-run refuge in inner Sydney, it's a challenging yet eye-opening account of young people in desperate straits and of a remarkable couple, Captain Paul Moulds and his wife Robbin, who have dedicated their lives to rescuing them. For Paul Moulds, the kids who come to the refuge for help are neither faceless nor mere statistics. "Behind that behaviour," says Moulds referring to his charge, Darren, who is undergoing a psychotic episode, "is a person and behind that person is a journey that led him to that point." In the case of Darren, whom Moulds found sleeping in a wall cavity, aged eight, that journey saw him abandoned by his mother, dealing drugs to support himself, beaten to within an inch of his life at 10 and battling heroin use for the next 15 years. "People get entangled in generational dysfunctionality," says the film's co-director and cinematographer Sascha Ettinger Epstein. "It's so monkey-see, monkey-do," she says, recalling an eight-year-old girl who lived on a mattress in a lane with her drug-addicted father, her mother having committed suicide. "People have such bleak examples set for them. They don't feel they have any future and in the meantime they're wasting all this time when other people are getting educated. They have so much to catch up on. They go off, take drugs, get uninhibited and have sex and have kids that have no chance either, and then when they get their kids taken away it's total devastation." Having grown up in a world of privilege in one of Sydney's most elite suburbs, the 30-year-old Ettinger Epstein says she initially found it frustrating and depressing watching kids from the other side of the tracks over 18 months of filming. "I'd see kids get their welfare cheques, blow it on a stash of booze or drugs, and I'd be like, 'For f---'s sake, you're just going to be begging at the door tomorrow for food and asking me to buy you hot chips'. "I was frustrated, but then as people slowly revealed their stories and what they'd been through and what kind of parenting model they'd had, or lack thereof, I kept thinking with compassion and empathy of how much I've been supported. The stories are very dire." So dire, that when it came to test-screening the film, viewers found it difficult to connect with the troubled kids. As a result, Captain Moulds became more prominent in subsequent edits of the 75-minute film. "As much as I thought they were my buddies and that people would have empathy and compassion, people needed someone's hand to hold through the film. It was really quite interesting because he (Moulds) is an amazing man and so inspiring . . . He's a crazy optimist, sometimes delusionally so, I think. "But people connected with Paul, and they felt that if Paul's managing it then we can believe in these kids because someone believes in them." The documentary's co-director, Ian Darling, is chairman of the philanthropic organisation Caledonia Foundation, under whose auspices the film and a related report on homelessness were made. The report was due for release Tuesday this week, two days before the broadcast. "We felt that this film would be sufficiently confronting that the community would feel a bit helpless unless we could provide something that showed that maybe there is something we can do about it," says Darling. He cites An Inconvenient Truth as an example of how a film can be "very micro in terms of solutions so people don't feel totally helpless". He hopes The Oasis and the associated campaign will encourage the public to volunteer time and money to local youth services. Small things, such as saying hello to a homeless person, can matter, he says. "One of the things which comes out of the film and the report is they feel so marginalised, that they're looked down upon as animals, but they're all just like us, they've just had bad circumstances." Darling wants corporate Australia and philanthropic foundations to step up to the plate. "It's an unsexy area and there's no way we'll solve it if the Government does it alone." The broadcast's timing, says Ettinger Epstein, is perfect in the wake of November's election. "(Prime Minister) Rudd is pushing for so many issues that are so relevant, like binge drinking, like making ministers go to shelters." In terms of ethics, the film inevitably walks a fine line between depicting actuality and respecting the privacy and integrity of those in highly compromised situations. The film was recently re-edited to remove one of the central characters amid fears that being recognised in the documentary would make his release from detention more difficult. "The greatest dilemma for any documentary maker is that someone's worst moment is your best footage," Ettinger Epstein admits. "A lot has been cut out for ethical reasons; fights, where people get hurt, incriminating, defamatory things, but I still think you get a sense of how exploitative that world is." But generally, she says, on a day-to-day basis the people we meet in The Oasis are "normal kids, they have good times, they have adventures, they're curious, they explore the city. They do in some cases still have that youthful innocence. "The really drug-addicted are difficult to connect with, but the other kids have that element of being salvageable."

ninemsn Video - Homeless Interview - The Today Show 7 April 2008 - April 6 2008
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Today Show interview

Gathering pieces of young, shattered lives Sian Powell The Weekend Australian Review - April 05, 2008
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BRUISED and haggard, Haley has a $600-a-day heroin habit. Chris is battling an addiction to ice, a drug that sends him crazy. Owen smoked "heaps" of ice, and spent his childhood in and out of juvenile detention.

On the face of it, they are foul-mouthed, feckless and angry. Like thousands of other Australian street kids, they turn to drugs for solace, usually spurning the efforts of do-gooders. Yet the Salvation Army's Paul Moulds has spent 25 years trying to help Owen, Haley and others like them.
Moulds runs the Oasis Youth Refuge, which sleeps 14 teenagers who would otherwise sleep on a pavement or in a park. He tries to find the street kids work and permanent accommodation when they want it, and he tries to get them to sign up to drug rehabilitation programs. He deals with daily abuse and ingratitude, yet every now and then his unflagging patience and compassion score a win.

Like Darren, whom Moulds found as an eight-year-old sleeping in a hole in the wall. Darren's mother had packed up and abandoned him and his older brother.
Darren had the childhood from hell, and he was soon sucked into a 15-year heroin addiction.
Moulds helped him get through a detox program, and helped him find a flat after seven years on the street. These days he is apparently settled in and returning to Oasis to help out with volunteer work. Owen, too, has overcome his ice addiction and now works as a gardener.

This gripping and extremely unsettling documentary follows the life and times of Darren, Owen and several other street-dwellers who come and go, using Oasis as a shelter, a home base, and a counselling service.
The filmmakers obviously put in a great deal of work to chronicle the darker side: there is footage of one street kid on ice going berserk and finally being dragged away by the police, and footage of the funeral of another lost soul who fell to his death from a skyscraper.

Haley, who has the monster heroin habit and dabbles with ice as a sideline, provides some haunting moments. Now in her early 20s, she has been in and out of Oasis since she was 15; she left home after the boyfriend of her druggie mother kept bashing her up. Once she wanted to be a nurse, and maybe get married and have children. But ice and heroin have undone her and she tells the camera, crying, that her life is a mess.
Moulds's wife, Robyn (another Salvation Army saint), goes looking for Haley in Hyde Park, where she now often sleeps under the bushes.
She finds her, hugs her, offers her some help, and finally, necessarily, lets her go.

THURSDAY, APRIL 10: The Oasis: Australia's Homeless Youth 8.30pm, ABC1

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