‘Lucky’ Documents Life of Homeless Mom

Lucky Torres (photo via trailer video)

Lucky Torres (Photo via trailer video)

A new documentary film, “Lucky,” gives viewers an unvarnished look at the life of Lucky Torres – a Puerto Rican lesbian mom who sports a pink mohawk and multiple tattoos and piercings, and lives in the South Bronx with her son, in homeless shelters and transitional housing. Colorlines interviewed filmmaker and journalist Laura Checkoway to find out why she followed Torres for six years, and what she learned in the process of making a documentary about her.

Noting that “what’s most striking about Torres is her face – an outward manifestation of her inner turmoil,” Colorlines described the black spiderweb on her left cheek, the word bitch tattooed on her right cheek, the skull on her chin and the markings stretching across her neck and torso. Asked to explain her “provocative look at beauty,” filmmaker Checkoway explained:

I thought I was following this badass chick; a style and street icon. But I soon realized that it was more of a story about the wounded and vulnerable person inside. Lucky is very interesting to look at on a superficial level, and is stopped in the street constantly. Passersby always want to take pictures with her. People are very taken with her exterior—both excited by it and repulsed by it. I think it’s interesting that her surface is so bold, and that she has such bravado, but that only goes so far and there’s so much more she has yet to figure out.

Growing up, Torres bounced around foster homes until she ran away and ended up homeless. Her daughter was taken from her, and she struggles to build a life with her son. In the film, she is shown hustling her way out of homeless shelters and into public housing by fabricating a tale. Why did Checkoway show this?

If a program or a system is backwards, then the way to make it work for you is backwards as well. Lucky knows that system really well and has been stuck in it, and sort of wired into it, and that’s how she makes it work.

At the New York premiere of the documentary, Torres behaved erratically. Checkoway explains:

She had a tough night at the [New York City] premiere, and stormed out. She wasn’t sober—something that I identified a long time ago as being key to her being in control of herself. But, it must be so overwhelming, a packed house, and the entire cast of the film was there—no one had ever seen it before, and they were all in the front row. So, I just imagine it was very overwhelming for her on various levels. She’s there and being celebrated in this great way, but then it’s like, “Where am I going to [sleep] tonight?”

The filmmaker told Colorlines that some reactions to the film have been striking:

…people just wanted to start spilling their guts and sharing their dark pasts in a really guttural and powerful way. And it kept happening. There really is power in that, that sharing truth and pain sparks others to feel comfortable opening up in that same way. I know it’s a pretty hard core and raw portrait, and Lucky isn’t the most typical hero.

And Checkoway hopes for a meaningful impact.

[Lucky Torres] has a very powerful story and a very powerful voice, and I would love for the film to create opportunities through outreach, to connect with young people and women. The point of this film is to open people’s eyes and change people’s lives.

Below is the trailer for “Lucky”:

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