A group of West Oakland recyclers featured in Amir Soltani's "Dogtown Redemption." (Image Copyright 2013, Redemption).
A group of West Oakland recyclers featured in Amir Soltani’s “Dogtown Redemption.” (Image Copyright 2013, Redemption).

The Los Angeles Times ran a nice piece over the weekend on “Dogtown Redemption,” a documentary on West Oakland’s street recyclers. The story traces how co-director Amir Soltani arrived in the neighborhood and what he found happening in the streets there:

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.

If “Dogtown Redemption” makes the cut, it will be the second Oakland story in as many years to get into the January festival. Last winter, “Fruitvale” was screened there and won the Grand Jury Prize and audience award for best U.S. feature film. The movie recounts the last day of Oscar Grant, the BART passenger killed on Jan. 1, 2009, by transit police Officer Johannes Mehserle.

Here’s the trailer for “Dogtown Redemption”:

  • guest

    “Nice piece” of what?

    • Dan Brekke

      See Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, “piece”: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/piece

      Check definition 5: ” a literary, journalistic, artistic, dramatic, or musical composition.”

      You’re welcome.

      • guest

        Nope, that’s not it. You’re welcome.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at: dbrekke@kqed.org

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