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When the Light's Red

by Keith Wilson

How do you decide between help and harm?

You're stopped at an intersection, and that guy with a sign asks for money. What do you do? Do you give him some spare change? Do you stare straight ahead pretending he's not there? With humor and compassion, WHEN THE LIGHT'S RED chronicles the filmmaker's own experience with intersection panhandling. Narrated with his own conflicted and stark inner dialogue, the filmmaker seeks guidance from other drivers, a homeless services provider and panhandlers themselves.

WHEN THE LIGHT'S RED is ideal for engaging students in discussion about a complex topic, homelessness. With a running time of 11 minutes, it fits perfectly into a class period, leaving plenty of time for writing or discussion.

Recommended by educators as a teaching tool for courses in:

Social Work
Urban Studies
Buddhist Studies

quoteHIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Not many 11-minute videos change the way you think: When The Light's Red is a thought-provoking short on a troubling social issue."
Randy Pitman, Publisher/Editor
Video Librarian
full review

quoteMy students thoroughly enjoyed delving into the narrator’s innermost thoughts as he examines how to respond to people often perceived as undeserving. This short, poignant film elicits important discussions about the corrosive effects of social inequality, not only on those at the bottom but also on those in positions to help.
Ruth N. López Turley, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology & Director, Houston Education Research Consortium
Rice University

quoteA quick, humorous and very thought-provoking look at our internal struggles with, and external reactions to, encountering the human faces of social inequality and poverty. It is ideal for use in Sociology courses such as Intro, Social Problems, Social Psychology, and Social Stratification.
Dennis Condron, PhD Professor of Sociology
Emory University

quoteI love this film! A great tool for opening up discussion on homelessness and our response as citizens. I use the film in my Introduction to Social Work class as an icebreaker and conversation starter.
David Jenkins, PhD, LCSW Department Chair & Associate Professor of Social Work
Texas Christian University

quoteWHEN THE LIGHT'S RED provides a view into the commonly experienced but often avoided subject of giving money to panhandlers. This is a wonderful video for generating discussion among college students as the thoughts expressed in it will bring up feelings and opinions we have all had on this controversial subject.
Laurie Silver Dean of Student Life
Prescott College

More Reviews


  • PBS Broadcast
  • Best Short Documentary, Hi Mom! Film Festival
  • New York & Chicago Underground Film Festivals

  • San Francisco Documentary Film Festival
  • Hot Springs International Documentary Film Festival

  • PDX - Portland Documentary and Experimental Film Festival

  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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