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Dogtown Redemption

Distributed by Passion River Films, 154 Mt. Bethel Rd., Warren, NJ 07059; 732-321-0711

Directed by Amir Soltani and Chihiro Wimbush
DVD, color, 94 min.
High School - General Adult
Homelessness, Poverty, Drug Addiction, Recycling, Documentaries

Reviewed by Jeffrey Pearson, University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 3/13/2017

Dogtown Redemption offers a fascinating inside look at a world of which few are probably aware; communities supported and sustained by recycle centers. Alliance Recycling in South Oakland is the focus here, and this documentary examines the lives that revolve around the center over the course of 7 years. These are people on the fringe, dealing with homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness. The few dollars they can earn by scavenging garbage to redeem at the center is their only means for day-to-day survival.

The documentary focuses on 3 homeless individuals; Jason Witt who struggles with drug addiction, Landon Goodwin who looks to religion, and Miss Day, a former punk rocker from a well-to-do Korean family. The camera follows them and listens to them impartially. The film does not examine them as a problem to be solved. No solutions are implied or explored, and aid for these individuals from social services or city bureaucracy is all but absent. We simply spend time with them, and this is the film’s strength and I believe its purpose. We get to know them as people with the same needs and values as all of us, who look for meaning and purpose through religion, interpersonal relationships, or martial arts. As desperate and destitute as they are, they value their community. Even those who find their way out of the cycle of homelessness and addition, as does Landon, recognize stronger bonds there. This documentary humanizes those on the fringe in a remarkable way, making the harsh realities of their paths all the more poignant and heartbreaking.

This documentary is highly recommended for public and academic libraries and is valuable for courses on urban studies, homelessness, and poverty.