Makers of film on Oakland’s recyclers await word from Sundance……….

Leave a comment
Arts, Life Style, Photos
English: Rufus Wainwright at the Sundance film...

English: Rufus Wainwright at the Sundance film festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Filmmakers hope ‘Dogtown Redemption,’ a compassionate look at people eking out a living by recycling, wins a slot at Sundance.

Filmmaker Amir Soltani, right, with recycler Dee in Oakland

Amir Soltani, right, producer/director of “Dogtown Redemption,” talks to Dee, one of many recyclers he has befriended at West Oakland’s Alliance Recycling Center. The documentary, six years in the making, follows people who push shopping carts through town, collecting recyclables as a way of making a living. (Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times / September 11, 2013)

By Lee Romney

November 30, 2013, 9:00 a.m.

OAKLAND — Amir Soltani moved into his brother’s townhouse eight years ago in a new West Oakland development touting itself as a bridge between “industrial and residential neighborhoods.”

He had fled Iran as a child for a life of relative privilege in Britain and the U.S., where he attended elite colleges. Yet Soltani understood displacement and the outsider’s lack of belonging. And he saw and heard something he could not ignore.

The clang clang of the shopping carts formed a spectral nighttime symphony as recyclers congregated from miles around. Some pushed loads of as much as a thousand pounds on rigs lashed together with street ingenuity. Their destination: Alliance Recycling.

Local residents had long clashed with Alliance, and transplanted professionals who bought into the townhouse complex were even more vocal in their displeasure. The sounds were cacophonous, and the cash disbursed for glass and aluminum pilfered from private cans was often spent on drugs, booze and sex in plain sight.

Soltani saw a bigger picture: the legacy of poor urban planning that had turned a thriving African American enclave into a destitute landscape pocked by industry. And now, gentrification and mounting tensions.

He quit his job, bought a camera and became a fixture at Alliance.

Six years later, “Dogtown Redemption,” the documentary he created with co-director and cinematographer Chihiro Wimbush, is in the hands of judges who will announce this week whether it wins a coveted slot in the Sundance Film Festival.

The duo hopes to spur discussion with an online interactive map on which residents and business owners can track recyclers’ routes and upload their own stories and opinions.

“It’s film as a way to build community,” said Soltani, 47. “There are all these people living at different levels here — sort of like a shattered mirror.”

Even before the film’s release, the long act of making it would prove transformative — for subjects and filmmakers: Lives lost. Recovery. Despair. And most of all, deep, abiding human bonds.

“I love Amir,” said Hayok Kay, 59, a South Korean-born former punk rock drummer whose mental health demons have kept her on the streets for decades. “Because he’s Amir.”

::

Soltani studied social and intellectual history at Tufts and Harvard universities, became a human rights activist and worked as a journalist before landing a Bay Area job here as Middle East editor for New America Media.

Around the corner from his new home was Alliance, which opened in 1978 — after redevelopment made its mark.

Lucy Liu at the Sundance Film Festival

Lucy Liu at the Sundance Film Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Freeways that promised connection to San Francisco had surrounded and isolated West Oakland. The depot at the western terminus of the First Transcontinental Railroad, which had brought in a flow of Southern job-seekers and cash-flush black porters, was closed.

A vibrant blues music scene died out, along with black-owned businesses that had offered a path to the middle class.

Alliance, in the neighborhood known as Dogtown, was a stage on which enduring consequences played out. Soltani settled in to watch and listen.

In mid-2008, he was joined by Wimbush, who, born to a Japanese mother and white father raised in Kenya, shared Soltani’s outsider perspective of urban America.

Where many saw dank and sticky chaos, the pair found the underside of the green economy and a subculture of enterprise, where recyclers closely guarded routes built on long-cultivated relationships.

On a recent day, Roslin Brister-Sanders, 56, showed off a heavy ring of keys around her neck that grant access to garages and gates along the two-mile route she has traced with her cart for more than a decade — first with her husband, and then alone, after he landed in jail and died under mysterious circumstances.

 

 

Advertisements
Posted by

I'am college graduate and father of three daughters; Jasmine Sherry 17, Rean 16, and Dana 14. Most of my employment years i spent in the restaurant management field. I worked for financial institutions as well at the same time in marketing and finance. My favorite job of all times is working for Taste Freeze as a fry and milk shake attendant. It was the atmosphere that i dig the best. People around me effect everything in my life, not the position. By the way i was 17 years of age then. Here and there i was involved in local politics, like the high school shut down because of a protest or a rally, and in college i got in trouble for bringing beer to the football game. I was a student Government and suppose to behave like a student Senator. I was in the spot lite as i excused myself, it was a brush and let go. I like student clubs, group, well we get to raise hell together after something like a project or a meeting. AISEC was my favorite. The international Association of Students In Business and Economics, it sound different in french. I went to grad School because my sisters drove me to it, one with a Master and the other beyond Grad School, and my employer paid for it, i ended up with an MBA in Marketing Management. I went on to work for both the public and the private Sector as a Marketing Coordinator representing the JTPA to everyone in seven Southeast Los Angeles County Cities. Press releases, and cities meeting were the top priorities of my work load agenda. We were funded by the State through the Federal act of Job Training Partnership Act, therefore we had to cater to the local politicians such as assemblymen, congressmen, and senators too, like what her name, Diane Feinstein and Miss Boxer. Funny I learn how to be real young, i mean very young, well extremely young as all those who like to post their high school photo for the public to recognize them, as local public officials told me to do so because that's how most people knew them. i like water sports, or hobbies like fishing, sailing, snorkeling, and just plain sit on a sandy beach, read, and dip in that water when i feel like it. Listen to music and enjoy people watching as well. It is amazing how much you can learn from watching others. That's what we were brought up doing anyway. Now i spent most of my times developing websites , writing, scouting for high quality contents and show time images, as i post on my digital publications. I consider myself lucky because i had great parents who devoted their time to raise me and looked after me to have education. i hope to continue making a difference in others for as much as i can, and as little as they comprehend and retain from any of my publications contents. I feel it is part of our life journey to contribute positive anything to everything around us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s