DOGTOWN REDEMPTION (2015)

Directed by Amir Soltani, Chihiro Wimbush

Film Synopsis

A surprising number of Americans make their living off America’s vast rivers of trash. They are America’s unseen. DOGTOWN REDEMPTION tells the story of one river, and the humanity of its inhabitants in Dogtown, West Oakland, a lively, bustling yet invisible corner of California.

We follow the lives of three recyclers: Jason Witt, the titan of recycling, Landon Goodwin, a former minister, who struggles with his own fall from grace, and Miss Hayok Kay, the ultimate outsider, formerly a punk rocker from a prominent Korean family, now at the mercy of the elements and predators. Through them, we are introduced to the art, science, economics and politics of recycling: what it offers, how it touches the poor and why it matters to all of us.

Active Cinema Participation

At MVFF 2015:

  • The film had its world premiere.
  • Sold out the World Premiere screening with 8 members of the Oakland recycling community present to tell their stories during the onstage Q&A.
  • Won the MVFF Audience Favorite, Silver Award for 2015 Active Cinema.
  • A special surprise was planned for Co-Director Amir Soltani – Geralyn Dreyfous, one of the film’s Executive Producers unveiled a portrait of Amir and one of the film’s subjects who recently passed, Ms Kay.
  • The MVFF screenings were co-presented by St. Mary’s Center (hyperlink: http://stmaryscenter.org/ ) and California Humanities (hyperlink: http://www.calhum.org/ )

Active Cinema Impact

  • Saw sold out screenings at Bay Area theaters including Oakland’s New Parkway, the Roxie in San Francisco, and CFI’s Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center.
  • Dogtown Redemption was shown nationally on PBS’s Independent Lens as well as on their online platform.
  • The film was screened at Berkeley Video and Film Fest, Cinema at the Edge Independent Film Festival, Harlem International Film Festival, Argentina’s Festival Internacional de Cine Ambiental, the West Oakland Youth Center, and by the Utah Film Center in Salt Lake City.
  • The issue was covered by AJ+ in a short video (hyperlink: https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/753561161452060/) that included clips of the film. It was also covered by the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, and the East Bay Express.
  • Executive Producer Regina Scully received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Women’s Media Awards presented by the Women’s Media Center.
  • The filmmakers supported the protests to support Alliance Metals, with Amir Soltani speaking to Oakland City Council in defense of Alliance Metal’s clients and the need for alternative incomes for recyclers.

How to See the Film

The DVD is available for personal and public purchase on the DOGTOWN REDEMPTION website

The filmmakers are also running a For-Benefit Media campaign that serves and benefits the poor.  

Their collaboration with Street Spirit, the East Bay’s homeless newspaper, is their first pilot project. For more information on disseminating Dogtown Redemption to your community and benefiting local organizations, visit http://www.dogtownredemption.com/for-benefit-media/

How to Stay Active

Visit the Take Action page on the DOGTOWN REDEMPTION website

Partner Organizations: St. Mary’s Center

From the Filmmaker – By the DOGTOWN REDEMPTION Team

The day started off with a line of customers waiting for the gate to open at 8 a.m., like any other day. We spent time with people who recycle by foot, by bike, by truck, people who work in the yard, in the office, all of whom, with every ounce of their energy, strive to make ends meet. Friends who have protected each other and kept the business going for years are now disbanded–and the day ended with sorrow and sadness on the faces of many, particularly Alliance’s employees as they closed the open gates one last time.

Despite our campaign and collective offer to raise the funds, services and volunteers to balance neighborhood complaints and concerns with the basic needs of recyclers to earn a livelihood, Alliance Metals is now closed.

We asked the city for an extension so we could have a plan in place to ease the shock and absorb the trauma. In a couple of weeks, we had over 2,000 people signing our petition calling for a compassionate solution. Even with help from Pastor Raymond Lankford to mediate and $30,000 in pledges from two foundations, neighbors claimed that Alliance had not implemented the plan, and was acting in bad faith. 

 Recycler Ohio Smith and filmmaker Amir Soltani stand together on closing day. Photo: ©2016 Denise Zmekhol


Recycler Ohio Smith and filmmaker Amir Soltani stand together on closing day. Photo: ©2016 Denise Zmekhol

The bonds, labor and lives were considered nothing but a “nuisance” to the neighbors, city attorney, council and mayor. Not a word from Libby Schaaf, explanation or clarification, let alone apology, from Barbara Parker, not an appeal or intervention from City Council.

Not one of them stepped forward to utter a word in defense of Oakland’s poor. They not only permitted the neighbors to dehumanize hundreds of recyclers by labeling them as thieves and addicts, but lent legal force, the stamp and authority of their offices to an assault not only on the civil and economic rights of the recyclers, but on their dignity and humanity as fellow Americans. That’s the true theft, here.

We are at the beginning of a new fight.