Multi-media Hits the Streets: Dogtown Redemption Meets Street Spirit

Special to The Planet
Friday May 06, 2016 - 10:32:00 AM

The May Issue of Street Spirit comes with an Award-winning Feature-length Film

Forget streaming and virtual reality. A new pilot project between Dogtown Redemption, a documentary about Oakland's shopping cart recyclers, and Street Spirit , the East Bay's homeless newspaper, promises to redefine the interactive media landscape. 


Shot over seven years, Dogtown Redemption follows three recyclers as they fight for survival, amidst addiction, mental health issues, homelessness and poverty. The film is an intimate look into the lives of “America’s unseen,” and was funded by California Humanities, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, San Francisco Foundation, and the Berkeley Film Foundation, among others.
Starting in May, DVDs of Dogtown Redemption will be available through Street Spirit 's network of over 100 homeless street vendors in the East Bay.

Street Spirit vendors will sell a DVD and an issue of the paper for $10.00. All proceeds go directly to the vendors. The pilot project is intended to make the life and work of the poor visible through their own voices and media. 

In conjunction with the DVD sales, Street Spirit is devoting its entire May issue to Dogtown Redemption, focusing on the film and the homeless recyclers it documents. Coverage also includes articles about the City of Oakland's plans to shut down Alliance Metals, the West Oakland recycling center, in August 2016—and the consequences for hundreds of recyclers for whom Alliance Metals has been a lifeline. 

"The recyclers in our film taught us to look at poverty through the prism of potential, agency, and creativity, not prejudice and pity," said filmmaker Amir Soltani. "We wanted to have our work aligned with media that is serving the people we were filming. Street Spirit is not just a newspaper. It is where our subjects are heard and seen—and we hope this will mobilize the community to connect with and support their local vendors," said Soltani. 

Street Spirit Editor Terry Messman said the poor and homeless are too often treated as discarded waste products swept out of their own neighborhoods. "Poor people in West Oakland have lives that are as meaningful and as important as any lives in America. We have covered Dogtown Redemption in Street Spirit for a couple of years. This film is fighting to restore their dignity and humanity on the national stage and we want to support that with every bit of energy we can give." 

"It has been said that a film isn't really finished until it is shared with its audience," said Rahdi Taylor, Film Fund Director for the Sundance Film Institute Documentary Program. "The collaboration between Dogtown Redemption and Street Spirit strikes a landmark strategy for bringing this timely film to the audience it was made for. In the process, Street Spirit is extending its micro-economic opportunities for its sellers." 

"If this pilot project works in the Bay area, we will distribute our DVD through other street sheets across the country," said Soltani. 

The collaboration comes just two weeks ahead of Dogtown Redemption's national broadcast on the critically acclaimed PBS series Independent Lens on Monday, May 16th at 10 PM. 

About Street Spirit 

Street Spirit i s a publication of the American Friends Service Committee that has reported extensively on homelessness, poverty, economic inequality, welfare issues, human rights issues, and the struggle for social justice i n the Bay Area for 21 years. Street Spirit provides homeless people with a voice which cannot be found in the mainstream media. TheStreetSpirit.org 

About the film: 

Shot over seven years, Dogtown Redemption , takes us on a journey through a landscape of love and loss, devotion and addiction, prejudice and poverty. The story of the three recyclers—Jason, Landon, and Hayok--provides a rare glimpse into the conflicts over race, class, and space shaping Oakland and other American cities. DogtownRedemption.com 

About the filmmakers:
Amir Soltani is the Producer and Co-Director of Dogtown Redemption . Amir is an Iranian-American human rights activist. He has worked in journalism, philanthropy, and business. Before moving to West Oakland, Amir worked on civil society projects and micro-enterprise in Afghanistan. He is the author of Zahra's Paradise, a New York Times bestselling graphic novel on Iran's 2009 protests. 

Chihiro Wimbush is a hapa, Oakland-based filmmaker. Most recently he served as editor of the award- winning film Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm . With his wife Meena Srinivasan, he creates mindful media and education content via their nonprofit organization, A Lens Inside. 

For more information and screeners of the film, please contact: 

Denise Zmekhol • (415) 378-7436 • denise@zdfilms.com 

Lauren Kawana • (808) 386-2565 • lauren.akie@gmail.com 

Editor's Note: The film is available now for a ten dollar bill at Berkeley's Saturday Civic Center Farmer's Market from Van, the tall, energetic African-American woman with the grey dreads who regularly sells Street Spirit there.