[The following was originally published by our sister-wife at The Stranger in Seattle. Follow them for all the news happening up north!—eds.]
Last week director Steven Soderbergh spent time dodging the Seattle sun to carry out his artistic vision for KIMI, an HBO Max production set in a rainy Seattle. He also spent time refuting rumors that his production swept homeless encampments. Ah, Seattle.
From what we know of Soderbergh's new flick, Zoë Kravitz plays an agoraphobic Seattle tech worker who discovers a crime and must face her fear—🎶wide open spaces, room to make her big mistakes🎶—to do something about it. Complicating things for our blue-haired heroine is a new fictional city ordinance restricting the movement of homeless people.
Last week, fact and fiction performed a little ironic tango when a rumor circulated that Soderbergh's production swept a Pioneer Square homeless encampment to film their movie.
KIRO 7 wrote a whole story hypothesizing that the city only swept longstanding encampments on 4th Ave and 5th Ave and Yesler Way because the KIMI production asked them to.
"This is not true," Cid Swank, the unit publicist for KIMI, told me in an email. "Our production did not move anyone ever. I was on set every day and saw that we never asked any homeless to move. We worked around them."
Swank wrote that KIRO hadn't reached out to her.
"They seemed to have followed some Facebook group who was posting erroneous information about the movie," Swank wrote. Hmm. That checks out. Maybe Soderbergh will write a Safe Seattle-like counterprotest into the movie?
According to Kamaria Hightower, a spokesperson for Mayor Jenny Durkan, "there were no encampments addressed for the HBO production." The city "addressed" the encampments in Pioneer Square "as obstructions" in late March and early April because they "completely blocked the sidewalks."
As Seattle opens back up, it seems the city is sweeping more encampments. Around the same time that Seattle swept the people living in Pioneer Square, the city cleared a Denny Park encampment. In late April, the city swept Ballard’s Gilman Playground, and a team cleared the Broadway Hill encampment just last week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically advise against clearing encampments during the pandemic.
While the real-life council is far from passing a law restricting where homeless people can move, a new charter amendment proposal in Seattle, if passed, would codify homeless encampment sweeps into the city's constitution. Meanwhile, Auburn City Council increased the city's camping ban to a criminal penalty, and Mercer Island's council nearly unanimously passed a law prohibiting people from sleeping outside or in their cars on public property.
According to Swank, Soderbergh's production wrapped in Seattle on Saturday. Hightower said that the areas in Pioneer Square remain clear.