Hand-Emblazoned Redemption Glasses!


With 3 weeks left, we currently stand at 55% of our goal – just over $26,000. Your blessings of support and friendship have been nothing short of spectacular. To celebrate the growth of this movement, we have decided it’s time to toast our recyclers, friends and funders with the ultimate gift.

Ever wonder what happens to the glass our shopping cart recyclers bring to Alliance Metals? Welcome to the glass house: the wonderful world of David Levi, the maestro of glass.


Surprised by Hope - Cam Ostrow


Today's guest blog was written by Cam Ostrow, an organizer for the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness.  She has recently been working to promote the Resolve to Fight Poverty Conference, a national conference aimed at equipping students with the tools to combat poverty in their own communities.   Watching the trailer for Dogtown Redemption, I think what was most surprising to me was precisely how surprised I was by it. It was not the images of extreme poverty or devastating hunger that surprised me, and it wasn’t even the statements on the near pariah status of so many homeless individuals in their communities – those were the things I expected. Instead, what surprised me about the trailer was the message of redemption and hope at the root of each individual speaking and ultimately at the heart of the film.

I’ve been working on issues of homelessness and hunger since I was in high school, from leading campaigns like Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity, to my work right now with the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness.  After so many years, I am no longer shocked when I hear facts about the abuse suffered by homeless individuals at the hands of local police, and I barely flinch when someone points out how racism is central to the system that keeps poverty in place. Of course, seeing the spread of hunger and homelessness both nationally and internationally continues to devastate and move me. But still, these images do not surprise me: I understand that they are real and immediate and I have come to accept them even despite my yearn for them to change.

As a 22 year old recent college graduate, I am aware that I have grown up amongst a generation of activists who are preoccupied with what we cannot change.  We are hopeless pessimists, and we whole-heartedly believe that the system has screwed us along with everyone around us.  And maybe in some ways it has, but watching the trailer for Dogtown Redemption’s reminded me that I must have gotten into this fight believing that I could change something – believing that somehow, even knowing everything that was wrong with the world, there was hope for the future.  The film inspires me because it reminds me that I do not need to be surprised by a message of hope amongst images of poverty. What I need to continue my activism is to believe that somewhere out there, there is redemption for those who have been systematically thrown into poverty, and I need to believe that even when it seems like this work is unending, there is always the promise of positive change.

This was particularly helpful to my work on the 2013 Resolve to Fight Poverty Conference, which is the largest gathering of students and activists coming together to work on issues of hunger and homelessness in the country.  The conference is about learning how and why poverty has come to exist the way it does and impact certain communities the way it does – but it’s also about learning what we can do to change it.  To me, despite all of the horrifying instances of poverty which the conference will undoubtedly address, it is ultimately a hopeful event where students can take a moment to look past the infinite obstacles that await us move forward in the fight to resolve poverty.

-Cam Ostrow


Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!


Today, we would like to wish a happy 95th birthday to Nelson Mandela.  In 1990, not long after his release from prison in South Africa, Mandela ended an 8-city tour of the United States with a visit to Oakland.  His trip has since been immortalized in the creation of the Mandela Parkway: a thoroughfare through West Oakland created after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Mandela was invited to Oakland by then-U.S. House of Representatives member Ron Dellums.  Dellums, an Oakland native and longtime anti-apartheid activist, had four years earlier spearheaded a major sanctions bill against South Africa’s apartheid regime.  His work, and the work of countless activists throughout the Bay Area, had led many to call the East Bay “the birthplace of the anti-apartheid movement in the United States.”

As he addressed the crowd in Oakland, Mandela spoke of the energy the support of the American people had given him: “Despite my 71 years, at the end of this visit I feel like a young man of 35.  I feel like an old battery that has been recharged.  And if I feel so young, it is the people of the United States of America that are responsible for this.”

Like Mandela, the support we’ve received after only one day of fundraising has our batteries fully charged.  At the time of this writing, we’ve received some $14,000 in contributions from over 40 backers, and friends all over the country have shared our campaign over 300 times on Facebook.  You’ve tweeted, e-mailed friends, and opened your hands and hearts to our film.

But earthquakes continue to happen every day in Oakland and across the United States.  Lives once built on solid bedrock continue to crumble.  But like the Mandela Parkway, something new, creative, and beautiful always finds its way out of disaster.

West Oakland may be down, but it’s not out.  Your support has proven that much.  We hope you’ll stick with us and follow this project through to the end—to make poverty visible, and prove that redemption is possible.

With love,

The Dogtown Redemption Team


Dogtown Redemption is LIVE on Kickstarter!

Dogtown Redemption is live on  Kickstarter, and we already have some awesome news!  An anonymous donor has pledged to match, dollar for dollar, the first $5000 donated to the campaign!  Check out the campaign and help us reach that first milestone.  Here's some more information and other ways you can help:

4 Recyclers.  5 Years.  Over 200 hours of footage.

One chance to spur a national conversation on poverty.

The finish line for Dogtown Redemption is in sight.  Over the past 5 years, we have chronicled the story of America’s untouchables: homeless shopping cart recyclers living in West Oakland, California.  We’ve followed the lives of four recyclers: Jason, the Olympic titan of recycling, Roslin, a widow whose husband, Willie taught her how to survive by recycling, Landon, a fallen priest who ministers to the recyclers while struggling with his own fall from grace, and Miss Kay, a Korean immigrant and former punk drummer.  Through them, we are introduced to the art, science, economics and politics of recycling: what it offers, how it touches, and why it matters to the poor.

Our final hurdle lies in postproduction—the crucial process of editing footage, music, sound and more.  Our postproduction costs are over $120,000.  Through grants from Sundance, Cal Humanities, and the support of many friends, we’ve raised a great deal of these funds.  But once more we need your help.

We have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to finish the film by September—in time to submit to the Sundance Film Festival—the ultimate venue to start a national conversation on poverty and homelessness.

Here’s what you can do to help:

  1. Visit our Kickstarter page and watch the trailer.
  2. Donate.  Even $5 helps us move the needle toward our goal.
  3. Share the video with your friends, family, and coworkers.  It takes a village to make a documentary—your networks are our global village!

We never could have made it this far without the support and friendship of countless individuals.  Once more we’re putting our film and our faith in your hands.  We thank you for your love, and ask you for your blessings.

Warm Regards,

The Redemption Team

P.S.  Forwarding this e-mail to friends is another great way to share the film!  Thanks for your help.

Two American Families

"These are Americans who clearly play by the proverbial rules, and we see just as clearly that the rules don’t count for much if the game is rigged." One of our favorite poverty blogs comes from The Nation's Greg Kaufmann, who recently wrote about a must-see film called two American families.

The film, over 20 years in the making, follows the lives of the Neumans and the Stanleys from the early 1990s into the present.  Their story is shocking to say the least.

By film's end, 3 of the 4 adults of the families consider themselves failures.  After losing their financial security to outsourcing  and, more recently, the economic downturn of 2008, each family jumps from low-wage job to low-wage job.  The American dream of financial security no longer appears possible to either family.  As Terry Neuman puts it:

“The way the economy is going now, I don’t think anybody is going to be financially secure.  And we’ll just work until we collapse and keel over and die.”

Read more: Watch This: Two American Families | The Nation http://www.thenation.com/blog/175159/watch-two-american-families#ixzz2YfXpCewq Follow the Nation: @thenation on Twitter | TheNationMagazine on Facebook 

Follow Dogtown Redemption: Facebook and @redemptiondoc on Twitter

Photo by: AP/Ric Francis


Dogtown Redemption a Finalist for San Francisco Film Society Documentary Film Fund Grant


 On June 17th, the San Francisco Film Society announced the 13 finalists for the 2013 SFFS     Documentary Film Fund awards - and Dogtown Redemption was among them!  Over 200 applications were reviewed for the $100,000 in total prizes, and winners are to be announced in late July. Today, we will be sending in a new cut of the film and an expanded application to be reviewed by the second round of judges.  We are delighted to have made it to this stage and eagerly await the results of the final round.

The full press release can be found here.


Ella Baker Center Blog for Human Rights Day: St. Mary's Piano Man

Today, the Ella Baker Center, an Oakland-based human rights organization, is sponsoring a "Blog for Human Rights Day."  The goal of this event is to talk about "US" - the challenges, triumphs, and battles going on in the United States over issues of human and civil rights. As our contribution, we would like to talk about Raymond Jackson, a gentleman we met only a few days ago.  Ray is 79 and homeless, and has been in and out of various shelters all over the Bay Area for years.  At first glance, he appears to be a tired old man.  But after a few minutes of watching his flying fingers on the piano, you can't help but get up to sing and dance alongside him.

We met Ray at the St. Mary's Center in West Oakland - the shelter Miss Kay has recently been accepted into.  The St. Mary's Center is unique in the sense of community that it builds, and the people who keep coming back to it long after their stay at the shelter has been completed.  Ray himself stayed at the St. Mary's Center a few years ago, but has been returning off and on to share his musical talent and to lift the spirits of people who have suffered alongside him.

We would like to highlight Ray on human rights day in order to show the spirit that resides among the homeless population.  Homelessness is an experience, not a trait, and the people who struggle through it are truly beautiful.  Who would have known, looking at Ray's old and calloused hands, that his fingers could create such beautiful music?

You never know until you ask, and you never know until you listen.  Join us on this Human Rights day to break the walls between one another and learn what Redemption is all about!


Redemption featured in "The Street Spirit!"

This month, Redemption has been featured on the front page of Berkeley's homeless newspaper, "The Street Spirit."  The article details some of the struggles and triumphs Jason and Miss Kay have faced, and how the film hopes to bring their stories to life. As Redemption associate producer Zachary Stickney writes in the article, "their stories become an invaluable asset to society — something akin to living maps which illustrate the holes in our safety nets and the true beauty, dignity, and value of those who fell through them. They show us why we need to recognize and rectify these faults — and what we are set to lose if we do not."

The full article can be found here, or if you are in the Berkeley area a copy can be purchased from one of the Street Spirit's vendors throughout the city.

Amir Soltani, Landon Goodwin on Creating Peace at Home

Redemption Director Amir Soltani and former recycler Landon Goodwin appeared on the most recent production of "Creating Peace at Home" - a Berkeley Community TV production hosted by Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS) director Boona Cheema.  In the video, Amir and Landon discuss the beginnings of their friendship, the course the documentary has taken over the years, and the goals and debates they hope to contribute to with the documentary. This episode of Creating Peace at Home will show periodically on Berkeley Community Television and can additionally be viewed in full on Youtube through this link:



Redemption Winter Library Tour

Sample cut screenings of Redemption are coming to the East Bay!  This winter, we’re giving locals a chance to see Redemption firsthand, and to become a part of the story itself. A 20 minute sample screening of Redemption will be previewed at select local libraries in Oakland and Berkeley.  These screenings are far more than just a sample of the footage, however.  The events will also feature one of the recyclers featured in the film to share their story and take questions from members of the community.

In addition, those who attend will be invited to take part in the trans-media project of Redemption.  The goal of this project is to create an interactive map of Oakland which will combine stories, videos, music, and pictures to create a living map of the city which celebrates its spirit and diversity.  This project is supported by the San Francisco Foundation, the Sundance Documentary Film Institute, Cal Humanities, and others.

The event locations and dates are listed below:

November 8th: Berkeley North Library 1170 The Alameda Berkeley, CA 12:45 – 1:45pm

November 13th: West Oakland Library 1801 Adeline Street Oakland, CA 5:30 – 6:30

November 20th: Golden Gate Library 5606 San Pablo Avenue Oakland, CA 94608 6:30 – 7:30

And more coming soon…

If you are interested in hosting a sample screening, writing as a guest blogger, or have any other question or concern, please send a message to redemptiondocumentary@gmail.com and we will respond as quickly as possible.

Redemption, the Musical

One of the greatest things about filming in West Oakland is the inevitable surprises.  One day while on a quick run to the recycling center, we ran into some volunteers from the Showers of Blessings Ministries, who provided the recyclers in the area with service and a song. To view the video, click the link below:


To view pictures of the Showers of Blessings singers, check the album on the link below: