Dogtown Redemption Changes Your View of the World

Dogtown Redemption is an emotional testament to the humanity and perseverance of the recyclers and should enable all viewers to see the people behind the carts. Their personal circumstances are beyond challenging, but their tenacity and sheer strength as they navigate the streets of Oakland demand our admiration and respect.

by Abby Ginzberg

Every so often a movie comes along and you realize that after seeing it, your view of the world, other people and an issue has changed. Dogtown Redemption is such a film.

Seven years in the making, Dogtown tells the story of West Oakland recyclers with a loving, but realistic, close-up lens. Co-directors, Amir Soltani and Chihiro Wimbush, shot over 300 hours of footage over many years and have created a moving portrait of those who work hard to make a living from what the rest of us throw away.

As with many documentaries, the film is as good as the characters that are featured in it. What makes Dogtown so special is that the same people who we would not notice on the streets, pulling their carts filled to the max with bottles, cans and other recyclables, become individuals with unique stories and challenges during the course of the film.

And the film reveals another truism of documentary filmmaking, namely that filmmakers need the trust of the people they are filming—and that takes time and patience. But when, as with Dogtown, the trust is built, the payoff is enormous.

We get to meet a number of recyclers, whose personal circumstances are beyond challenging, but whose tenacity and sheer brute strength as they navigate the streets of Oakland demand our admiration and respect. Through their participation in the Dogtown film, we care about them, and are heartbroken to see their struggles.

Life on the streets of Dogtown, an area in West Oakland where the film Dogtown Redemption is set.

Life on the streets of Dogtown, an area in West Oakland where the film Dogtown Redemption is set.

 

What may have been a statistic or a short TV news story about strangers on the street, becomes a deep, emotional journey of people we feel we know because the filmmakers had the patience to wait and allow the recyclers to entrust their life experiences to the film. Dogtown Redemption is an emotional testament to the humanity and perseverance of the characters and should enable all viewers to begin to see the people behind the carts.

Abby Ginzberg is a Peabody award-winning documentary filmmaker and the President of the Berkeley Film Foundation, which provided a grant to the film in 2014. Berkeley FILM Foundation is proud to have supported Dogtown Redemption with funding to complete the project.

 

Writing for the Street Spirit: My 17 Year Journey

Writing for Street Spirit has awakened in me a sense of responsibility toward others. Street Spirit is a way for people silenced by big money and big media to have a voice.

Animal Friends: A Saving Grace for Homeless People

“I wrapped her in my jacket and promised I’d never let anybody hurt her again. And that’s my promise to her for the rest of her life. In my mind she’s a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.”

A Testament to Street Spirit’s Justice Journalism

The game was rigged against the poor, but I will always relish the fact that Street Spirit took on the Oakland mayor and city council for their perverse assault on homeless recyclers. For me, that was hallowed ground. I will never regret the fact that we did not surrender that ground.

Tragic Death of Oakland Tenant Mary Jesus

Being evicted felt like the end of her life. As a disabled woman, she saw nothing ahead but a destitute life on the streets. She told a friend, “If I’m evicted tomorrow, I have no choice but to kill myself. I have no resources, no savings, no money, and nowhere to go.”

They Left Him to Die Like a Tramp on the Street

Life is sacred. It is not just an economic statistic when someone suffers and dies on the streets of our nation. It is some mother’s son, or daughter. It is a human being made in the image of God. It is a desecration of the sacred when that life is torn down.

Joy in the Midst of Sorrow in Santa Maria Orphanage

This amazing priest not only housed 300 orphaned children from the streets of Mexico City, but he also took care of 20 homeless elders in his own house and started a home for children dying of AIDS. Father Norman also ran a soup kitchen that fed many people in the village.