Movie Review: Dogtown Redemption

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Dogtown Redemption (2015) tells the story of some of the poorest of America’s poor, West Oakland’s street recyclers. It focuses on 3 such individuals and allows them to speak for themselves while capturing on film the grim realities of their day-to-day lives. It also captures their humanity, intelligence and capacity for love.

7 years in the making, Amir Soltani and Chihiro Wimbush’s first film dignifies it’s subjects without pandering to liberal sentimentalism, Christian morality or hopeless cynicism. The stories of Landon Goodwin, Hayok Kay and Jason Witt, diverse in their backgrounds but united in their determination to survive, highlight life on the lowest rung of American society as well as the callousness of those who are better off. The film also delves into the politics of gentrification, nimbyism and our culture’s pathetic reliance on police for resolving complex social problems….all hot topics as the flood of tech money washes over the East Bay and displaces longstanding communities of lesser means. The film is particularly pertinent as City of Oakland fines and restrictive ordinances shuttered Alliance Recycling in August 2016, effectively eliminating the marginal livelihoods of the people the film gives voice to. Sweeps of Oakland’s homeless encampments are happening as I type this review, the war on the urban poor is in full swing in the Bay Area with no end in sight.

The Yuppie new comers of West Oakland and the City Council come off rather poorly in this story but the filmmakers make no claim to easy answers and allow the viewer to experience that unease, a tiny taste of what film’s subjects endure on a daily basis. I recommend you see this movie if you can.

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