Long Story Short

A film by Natalie Bookchin

Long Story Short interweaves over a hundred video interviews made with laptops and webcams at food banks, homeless shelters, adult literacy programs, and job training centers in California. Participants discuss why they are poor, how it feels, how they cope, and what they think should be done. Narrations unfold across the screen in choruses of overlapping phrases, ideas, and experiences, revealing individual perspectives as well as the power of the collective voice. More...

In Long Story Short, over 100 people at homeless shelters, food banks, adult literacy programs, and job training centers in Los Angeles and the Bay Area in Northern California discuss their experiences of poverty – why they are poor, how it feels, how they cope, and what they think should be done. Speakers discuss money, capitalism, class, neighborhoods, welfare, violence, and unemployment, and how it feels to be broke in a country where success is equated with wealth. They discuss what they think the rich and the middle-­‐class get wrong about their situations and what they think needs to be done.

Words and phrases flow across the screen like a musical ensemble, a choral voice moving across a social body of common experiences and variations on shared themes, as narrators momentarily join together, and then splinter part. The form suggests the promise of solidarity even as it depicts the reality of social isolation, the isolating process of poverty and of neoliberal forms, each speaker alone in their cell, together.

Long Story Short borrows its aesthetic and tools from social media, making a link between poverty and the technologies of a new economy that has produced a widening gap between the rich and the poor.  Here these tools are used instead to amplify the voices of the poor.

Long Story Short takes at face value the “social” in social media, imagining it as something unlike its current form. Many of Long Story Short’s subjects had never before shared their views on poverty in public, let alone on video. Like social media, poverty is also viral, iterative, part of a web of connected experiences. Long Story Short envisions a social media that fills the gaps in a society with a shortage of social spaces and public forums. It imagines a scenario where social media’s promise of connection and community is partially realized, envisioned in unexpected links, connections, commonalities and solidarity among strangers, where even a quiet voice, amidst many others, can be heard.


Official Selection - Doc Fortnight 2016 - The Museum of Modern Art Official Selection - Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival 2016


  • Feb 22, 2016


    The Museum of Modern Art, New York City


About the Filmmaker

Natalie Bookchin

Natalie Bookchin is an artist and videomaker whose work explores some of the far‐reaching consequences of the digital on a range of spheres including aesthetics, labor, leisure, and political speech.

Her media works have received national and international acclaim and are exhibited and screened widely, including at LACMA, PS1, Mass MOCA, the Walker Art Center, the Pompidou Centre, MOCA Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum, the Tate, and Creative Time. More...

She has received numerous awards including from Creative Capital, California Arts Council, the Guggenheim, the Durfee Foundation, the Rockefeller, California Community Foundation, Daniel Langlois Foundation, the Center for Cultural Innovation, a MacArthur Foundation Film Grant, and most recently a NYSCA Individual Artist award among others.

Bookchin was on the faculty of the Photography & Media Program at CalArts in Los Angeles from 1998–2015, chair and co-chair of the program for seven years. She currently lives in Brooklyn and is a professor of Media and Associate Chair in the Visual Arts Department at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

Press Kit

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  • Director / Producer / Editor: Natalie Bookchin
  • Sound Designer: Michael Kowalski
  • Production and Research Assistant: Kristine Tomaro
  • Additional Assistance: Shagha Ariannia, Sarah Simon, Marisa Williamson
  • Advisors: Robert Bullock, Michael Kowalski, Alexandra Juhasz, Montse Romaní
  • Website design and development: Yay Brigade

Funding provided from the Macarthur Foundation and NYSCA. Additional funding from CalArts and the Research Council of Rutgers University


  • Union Station Homeless Services, Pasadena, California
  • Year Up Bay Area, San Francisco
  • Social Services at Blessed Sacrament, Los Angeles
  • PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) Los Angeles
  • Next Step Learning Center, Oakland
  • Los Angeles Community Action Network
  • Downtown Women’s Center, Los Angeles
  • L.A. Family Housing, North Hollywood
  • The Bread Project, Emeryville


  • Vanella Alexander
  • Monica Allen
  • Shane Aspinall
  • Doray Atkins
  • Regina B
  • Julien Barnett
  • Shaneke Bragg
  • Zachery Bilsky
  • Reed Beeman
  • Joycelyn Belloff
  • Ricardo Berti
  • Shannon Bowerman
  • Chris Boyd
  • Lolita Brinson
  • Philandria Brown
  • Michael Carter
  • Maria Castellon
  • Leigh Anne Clark
  • David Cody
  • Billy R. Counts
  • Janet Counts
  • Mary Cowles
  • Robert Cruz
  • Neil D’Alessio
  • Demetrius Dandridge
  • John Danish
  • Miayako Dennis
  • Hugo Diaz
  • Steve Diaz
  • General Dogon
  • Lennea Downing
  • Oona Edelen
  • Melinda Emilien
  • Monica Fandey
  • Steven Fletcher
  • Nebra Flewellen
  • Alfredo Garcia
  • Valerie Garcia
  • Janessa Gilbert
  • Stefanie Gilmore
  • Tashiyanna Graham
  • Antionette Goodwin
  • Tammy Goolsbery
  • Clark Green
  • Ford Gunther
  • Kelly Hanna
  • Cherelle Knight
  • Michael Leininger
  • Veronica Long
  • Jason Mahoney
  • Yunuen Maya
  • Hannah Martin
  • Natasha McCloud
  • Melvin McCullough
  • Tito McMillan
  • Christopher Miller
  • Kevin Miller
  • Christina Morales
  • Josh Morris III
  • Bernice Murphy
  • Booker Hayes
  • Wyline Haywood
  • Damien Henson
  • Laureen Hernandez
  • Marc Hicks
  • Sharon Ann Hickson
  • Nathen Holzl
  • Lynda West-Hutcherson
  • Kim Jackson
  • Suzanne Jastrumske
  • Gregory Johnson
  • Jimonté Johnson
  • Lorine Johnson
  • Zondee Johnson
  • Yolanda Johnson
  • Edward Jones
  • Julie/Jewelee Kenner
  • Isis Murray
  • Fallon O’Garro
  • Emmanuel Ortiz
  • Donald Payne
  • Alex Ponce
  • William Ramos-Ochoa
  • Anthony Rivera
  • Michael Russell
  • Ana S.
  • Sharron Sampson-Bryant
  • Suzette Shaw
  • Harlan Smith
  • Zari Smith
  • Bonnie Stillwater
  • Michael Stone
  • Sunshine
  • Cha-Shann Thomas
  • Debra Tinsley
  • Pamela Vaughns
  • Rosa Waitayakul
  • Tiffany Walker
  • Westley Walker
  • Jennifer Williams
  • Leslie Williams
  • Thadius Williams
  • Sherrie Wilson
  • Dominic Yanez
  • Manuel Zaragoza
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