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Changing the world... one frame at a time.

Changer le monde… une image à la fois.




Posted February 5th, 2007 by Ezra Soiferman:


The Hemp For The Homeless project has successfully distributed all 50 "Hemp Help Kits" (twice the number originally anticipated) to homeless agencies and homeless individuals in Montreal.

You can read the latest project update here at my Ez Sez Blog, whereas below you can read about the somewhat-unbelievable-yet-true origins of Hemp For The Homeless.

Thanks for your interest in the project!



How it all began:

Posted October 25th, 2006 by Ezra Soiferman:

Hello All,

I'll start by saying that this whole Penny Idol thing has been pretty much the most surreal thing I've been involved in all year.

It began with filmmaker Raphael Levy announcing in June that he'd be creating a short film called The Hermitian Penny that would star a Canadian penny. For the film, Raphael and his team would hosting an online contest called Penny Idol to find the star (I repeat: a penny) of their film.

They emailed everyone they knew asking them to submit a single penny along with a name for the penny and a short explanation as to why it should be the star of Raphael's upcoming short film.

I submitted a 2006 penny I'd found on the street that week. I named it 'Juan Redscent'. I wrote a poem (reprinted below) to explain why my penny was worthy of being a star and I mailed it in with my penny taped to the entry form.

There were 4 rounds of voting over a bizarre 5 month period and my penny somehow (but mostly through the help of friends, family, associates and strangers who voted for it) managed to pull ahead of the other fifty or so pennies in competition. At a live event at the Mile-End Cultural Center (AKA "Main Hall" on St-Laurent) on October 23rd, it was announced to the audience that Juan had wound up winning the contest. This was more surreal than the contest itself. I was humbled. Juan was too.

The prize? $500!

As I'd announced during the last 2 rounds of voting, here's what I decided to do with the prize...

Use the $500 to assemble and distribute custom Hemp For The Homeless 'Hemp Help Kits' to as many people on the street as possible in my beloved home town, Montreal...

The free Hemp Help Kits will include:

-Ultra-soft hemp/cotton long sleeve T-shirt
-A bag of high-protein, tasty hulled hemp-seeds
-A few of the tastiest oatmeal/raisin/chocolate-chip/hemp cookies I've ever tasted
-Swish hemp soap bar + shampoo
-Nourishing hemp-oil lip-protector
-Custom recycled hemp paper writing pads bound with tough hemp string
-A selection of fresh fruits and vegetables (one can't live on hemp alone!)
-A re-useable hemp cloth tote-bag to carry all the above and more in the brighter future
-Hopefully a few other useful and/or tasty, hempy surprises

I'm in the process now of contacting suppliers in Canada and the USA for the various contents in the above kits. I hope to make at least 25 kits and pass them out on the streets of Montreal as soon as they are ready.

Best wishes from me and Juan Redscent. Thanks to all who voted round after round. Your 2 cents on the importance of helping out has made a difference and I am extremely grateful. So is Juan.

Amazing what one red cent and a few well-placed votes can do.

Many thanks,


Ezra Soiferman
Filmmaker, friend, etc.
Co-Director of the Montreal Film Group with Val Lonergan
Contact Ezra


Further reading:

What the heck's hemp, Ezra?
Canadian Homelessness Stats


The poem about Juan:

(Ezra Soiferman, 7/13/2006, Montreal; Written as a submission to the PennyIdol.com contest)

My penny flew in from outer space as a speck of heavenly dust in a meteor shower
Crossed straight across the land then crash-landed with a thwunk
Lay for millions of years in a vein of primordial ooze
Was mined up by underpaid workers breathing copper dust into their lungs

My penny was trucked across the land as a rusty chunk of metal
Melted down in a factory spewing black toxic smoke
Spilled, in molten form, into a boiling cauldron
Cooled under water in the factory lights and the light of another full moon

My penny was pressed into a bar of copper and packed, as a faceless brick, into a crowded freight train
Shipped across the land to the National Mint
Loaded briskly onto a conveyor belt
Pressed into a gleaming flat sheet of metal ready to be born again into this world

My penny was fed into the Mint's stamping machine where it felt its new identity coming on strong
It pondered this pecuniary existence as it was-
Slammed by the gears, squeezed by the rollers and cut by the dies
Given a value of one red cent and shipped back out across the land with thousands of identical friends

But my penny was not identical: it flitted, unsatisfied, from cash register to cash register,
gumball machine to gumball machine and piggy bank to piggy bank
Wayward and lonesome, but never despondent, it traversed the land
Again and again

My penny, tonight, found me outside the door to my new car (which in retrospect cost a pretty penny)
Looked me in the eye and agreed to help me out
Gave me inspiration to share its humble history for a clever contest about pennies
Gave me hope that I'd some day crisscross the land like it had so many times

My penny won the contest and I got five hundred bucks
That's fifty thousand identical pennies
Well, not exactly identical…

My penny is space dust, ooze, rock, molten metal and a tiny copper disc
With a king, queen or dead president on it
And more than that, my penny has hope

My penny will set out again across the land
In limos and on trains, buses and on planes
It shall be a movie star and an unknown stranger
A miner and a factory worker
A begging child and the pennies in its hand
My penny is you and me

My penny has hope.

I share with you my penny. Please share it with others too.


Thanks again to all who helped with Hemp For The Homeless. More info on the project at the Ez Sez Blog.