"Skid Row Marathon" Documentary Screening Comes to DTLA

Documentary Poster for  Skid Row Marathon  ( Courtesy of Mark and Gabrielle Hayes )

Documentary Poster for Skid Row Marathon (Courtesy of Mark and Gabrielle Hayes)

“One horrendous act does not define a person in his or her entirety,” says Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell in the trailer for the documentary, Skid Row Marathon.

The documentary, which took four and a half years to make, tells the story of Judge Mitchell, a criminal court judge who starts a running club with residents from a homeless shelter on Skid Row, leading to the unlikely group to run marathons around the world. The film follows them on early-morning training runs around L.A. to marathons in Accra, Ghana and Rome, Italy.

It also focuses on four Skid Row runners: David Askew, an aspiring artist who was homeless for ten years; Ben Shirley, a professional musician whose career and life derailed due to drugs and alcohol; Rafael Cabrera, who was formerly imprisoned for murder; and Rebecca Hayes, a mother who was homeless with her infant son.

Gabriele Hayes, who produced the documentary with her husband and director of documentary, Mark Hayes, had never seen homelessness before moving to Los Angeles in 1998.

“I’m from a communist country – former East Germany – and I never saw homelessness or crime,” Hayes said in a telephone interview. She was shocked at what she saw around her downtown L.A. neighborhood. “I couldn’t believe that in such a rich country, a rich city, just seven miles from Rodeo Drive [in Beverly Hills] you have people desperately sitting in the streets and having nothing and living in tents and boxes,” she said.

A 2013 Los Angeles Times article about the judge was what caught the filmmakers' interest. “We thought maybe we can make a difference by telling their stories and getting the film out there for other people to get inspired or maybe to get involved,” Hayes said.

Judge Mitchell agreed to be filmed, but cautioned the filmmakers; “It’s Skid Row and these people are at the lowest point in their lives, so you have to be careful,” Hayes remembers the judge telling them. The filmmakers gained the trust of the Skid Row runners by running with them for the first six weeks without the presence of film cameras.

“The homeless situation seems so hopeless, but here’s one man making a difference in a small, effective way, so that really inspired us, and changed us as well,” Hayes said.

Judge Mitchell, 15 Skid Row runners, and Hayes will all be running in the L.A. marathon this Sunday, March 18. A special screening of Skid Row Marathon will be shown on Friday, March 16, at 7 p.m. at the LA LIVE Regal Stadium 14 theater. Tickets for the screening are $10 on Eventbrite.