May 12: The Central Library revisits ‘Street Pulse’ for a conversation about city homelessness

The library will open its doors for a lunchtime screening of Marc Kornblatt’s 2012 documentary

Ostensibly, Street Pulse is about Robert and Angel Huffar. Robert’s struggles with drug addiction eventually landed him in jail while Angel’s alcoholism sent her to the streets of Madison. Homeless and struggling to find steady work, the Huffars — bereft of forgiveness of others and themselves — bond in their appreciation for one another and eventually marry, their union one of quirky, compatible personalities and emotional support. With over two decades between them, the Huffars look for a permanent escape out from under Madison bridges and friends’ basements, and Street Pulse shows the toll that takes on their well-being and their relationship.

But like its namesake, Street Pulse is also a beacon of awareness. As street vendors, Robert and Angel hawk issues of the titular periodical, Madison’s nonprofit paper whose distribution and contributions are supported by homeless reporters and artists. Throughout, director Marc Kornblatt peppers impressions and anecdotes from advocates and community leaders, various in their faith and social backgrounds and united in their awareness and respect for the city’s displaced population.

Along with cinematographer and editor Randy Lee, Kornblatt shows an eye for time in Street Pulse, documenting the changing of the seasons from under the same bridges and the snow-covered Capitol Square. The wintry notes of the city’s annual vigil for its deceased homeless population seem like a dour topic to end on, but those somber notes are suffused by the Huffars’ year-long hope. It’s an optimism buoyed by soulful acoustic cuts from local musicians.

Kornblatt, whom we’ve written about three times now in the past month, is as prolific a Madison artist as any, and this 2012 throwback is like his profile on Little Free Libraries, the thoroughly explored results of niche interests. At 68 min, Street Pulse is prime conversation fare for the lunchtime dialogue Central Library staffers are hoping to generate with this mid-day screening on Thurs, May 12, especially as the Mifflin St. branch has become a hub for the city’s displaced population. “We’re always excited to be able to show, in our libraries, great work by local filmmakers on issues that are relevant to our community,” the Madison Library’s Sean Ottosen added in an email when reached for comment. “With the public library’s screening of Marc Kornblatt’s documentary, we are hoping to engage everyone, including library guests, staff, and Street Pulse vendors, in a critically important dialogue about homelessness in our city. Also, we’re just really pleased to be able to show great work by local filmmakers in our libraries.”