STROKE is the third of the nine 9 @ Night feature films created with the Tenderloin yGroup, Rob Nilsson’s acting workshop for Tenderloin actors, inner city residents and all comers from 1999 to 2009. The 9 @ Night Films won the 2008 San Francisco Film Critics Marlon Riggs Award for courage and vision in the cinema. It was featured at the Harvard Film Archives and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center. Films from the series have played in film festivals and cinemas around the world.
Phil Berkowitz, a 55 year old street poet, survivor of the days of wine and roses with San Francisco's Beats, has a stroke. He lies for four days, virtually paralyzed, in his flea bag hotel room in San Francisco’s Tenderloin until he is found by Johnny, his neighbor across the hall. Johnny, African-American, pushing 60, barely survives working part time janitorial in a seedy strip club and escort service run by St. Tre and Ben Malafide who is now operating under the name Modisco to conceal his felony conviction.
After his stroke Phil is helpless and cannot work. Breaking hotel rules, Johnny lets the recovering Phil stay in his room and tries to help him regain his speech. He also tries to play Cupid, introducing Phil to Svetlana, Polish, 35, a Tenderloin waitress, ex-model and recovering alcoholic. Svetlana feels sorry for Phil, but Phil mistakes kindness for attraction, a recipe for disaster.
Thrown out of their hotel for breaking house rules, Johnny and Phil become homeless in San Francisco’s chilly streets, aware that if anything were to happen to them, no one would even know they were gone. People society has forgotten might as well have been picked up by space ships. Unknown and unremembered, they would simply cease to exist.