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Dogtown Redemption is the story of America's untouchables: Americans who survive by recycling trash in Oakland, CA.
Dogtown Redemption is the story of America's untouchables: Americans who survive by recycling trash in Oakland, CA.
406 backers pledged $56,125 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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$56,125

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Did you miss the deadline, but still want to donate? 

Make a tax-deductible donation through the San Francisco Film Society.

Checks can be made out to “San Francisco Film Society” and mailed to:

San Francisco Film Society
ATTN: Finance Dept.
39 Mesa St. Suite 110
San Francisco, CA 94129 

Please indicate "FSP 1382" in the memo of the check.

Thank you, everyone, for your amazing support!  Over 400 contributors helped us raise over $56,000 - 117% of our goal.

Keep in touch with us - visit www.redemptiondoc.org to learn more.  

We will be changing the title of the film  to American Untouchables: the Story of Redemption in Dogtown.

Let's make poverty visible.  The truth is, millions of Americans do care and want to connect to the invisible poor--the other America.  Dogtown Redemption takes us back to this other America, and shows how recycling serves as an economic lifeline for America's underclass.  

Many people think that living off trash is confined to poor people living in the ghettos of Cairo and Rio.  Dogtown Redemption fills that gap.  We look at the creative ways in which our own underclass creates its own jobs, community, and culture by mining trash in the streets of Oakland and Berkeley.  At a time when so much of the middle class is sliding into poverty, poor Americans can teach the rest of us a great deal about how to snatch hope out of despair, and how to make something out of nothing.  

We need your help to share the lives of four recyclers--Jason, the Olympic titan of recycling, Roslin, a grieving widow,  Landon, a fallen minister, and Miss Kay, a former punk rock drummer--with a national audience.  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.  

Your support will cover our postproduction costs (editing, music, and archival work), and help us finish the film by September, in time to submit to the Sundance Film Festival.  This means you'll be giving us a chance to trigger a national conversation about poverty.  

Join us and help us finish the ultimate marathon--a 5 year journey with West Oakland's recyclers. 

While monetary donations are the best way to help get the film itself in good shape, there are certainly many other ways to contribute to Dogtown Redemption

  • First, talk about it.  Sharing with friends, family, media, local organizations and more.  The trailer is available both on Vimeo and Youtube!
  • Share your stories with us.  Who are the homeless in your neighborhood?  How do they survive?  Is there a local recycling center?  Send your stories to us, and we'll share them on our blog!
  • Like/Follow us on Social Media - we update frequently on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.
  • Write a blog about Dogtown Redemption and share it with us!  An example can be found here.
  • Send us a photo to show your support! - Step 1: e-mail your photo to redemptiondocumentary@gmail.com - and if you'd like, add a personal quote or link to something you'd like to share.  Step 2:  We'll stamp your photo and tag you on Facebook - now you can share the photo with your friends!  Step 3:  There is no step three!   Enjoy the fact that you lent your beauty to support independent filmmaking.  

Beyond that, let's get creative!  You can host a mini-screening of our 24-minute sample cut, create a photo or video showing your support, or climb Mt. Everest on our behalf.  Whatever you do, be you, and it will be awesome.

Where can you find more information?

The best places for regular updates are our website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.  However, if you want to get a taste of the full film now, you can watch a 24 minute Sample Cut on our Vimeo!

If there’s anything we missed, please feel free to contact us by e-mail at redemptiondocumentary@gmail.com

As with the poor living in the urban slums of India, Egypt and Brazil, a surprising number of Americans live on the margins of a vast river of trash that is a source of hope and redemption.  Dogtown Redemption follows this river, and its inhabitants.  We dig into a lively, bustling yet invisible and most odiferous corner of California.  We follow 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 former priest, who ministers to the recyclers while struggling with his own fall from grace, and Miss Kay, the ultimate outsider, formerly a punk rocker from a prominent Korean family, now at the mercy of the elements and predators.  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.  

Far from telling the story of America’s inevitable decline, Dogtown Redemption is not a story about a miserable underclass.  It is the story of four great Americans, recyclers, who don’t lose their faith, love or courage no matter what their lot, and no matter how severe the judgments and prejudices about their character and capabilities.  The fact that so many lives converge around a recycling center in West Oakland is a reminder that no matter what the gaps between Americans and within America, there is much that can be redeemed no matter what the odds.  West Oakland’s recyclers provide a clue as to how we may profit by revisiting our ideas of pollution and poverty.  Thanks to them, we not only journey through the streets and landscapes of one of California’s greatest cities, but also through its history, economy, culture and politics. 

Over five years ago our director, Amir Soltani, noticed a recycler going through his trash – for bottles, cans, and other recyclables.  After several nights of watching through his window, he decided it was time to break the anonymity and to find out who the man was.  This relationship brought Amir to the recycling center – Alliance Metals in West Oakland – and began the project which would become Dogtown Redemption.  

Amir Soltani is an Iranian-American writer, journalist and human rights activist.  His NYT Bestselling graphic novel, Zahra’s Paradise, was nominated for two Eisner Awards.  It has been translated into 16 languages and become a global multi-media phenomenon.  It has been covered by dozens of news outlets including the Economist, CNN, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, BBC, Jakarta Times and others.  Amir serves as the executive producer and co-director of Redemption.  Amir studied social and intellectual history at Tufts and Harvard.

Chihiro Wimbush Chihiro is a 2012 Sundance Creative Producing Institute Fellow and a 2011 Bay Area Video Coalition MediaMaker Fellow studying video and transmedia. Before Dogtown Redemption, Chihiro, along with production partner Jim Choi, produced a series of short documentary films independently and for the Center for Asian American Media. Their most recent collaboration "Don't Lose Your Soul," honoring two godfathers of Asian American Jazz, had its broadcast premiere in San Francisco on public television station, KQED, and is premiering theatrically at film festivals in spring 2013. Chihiro has also worked in narrative film; as writer/director he created two short films, "Cross Fader" and "Double Features," both of which played at numerous festivals across North America. Chihiro served as a production manager and producer of three narrative feature films for the Center for Asian American Media, working with directors Wayne Wang, Rich Wong, and HP Mendoza.

Zachary Stickney is a recent graduate of Weber State University, where he received a B.S. in Political Science and Philosophy and was selected as the Outstanding Graduate in Political Science.  While attending Weber, Zach was selected as a Presidential Scholar, a Horatio Alger Association Scholar, and a Richard Richards Institute Scholar.  In 2011, he received the University’s Outstanding Volunteer Service Award for his work with campus organizations and for his volunteer work in the internally displaced persons camps in Maai Mahiu, Kenya.  Zach enjoys basketball, hiking, and singing karaoke badly.

Ray Telles' 35 year career in film and television includes the production of documentaries and news magazine segments.  He has produced and directed for Public Television, Turning Point and Nightline-ABC, Dateline-NBC, Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) and Channel 4, U.K.  His independent productions include films for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Independent Television Service (ITVS).  Ray has produced and directed more than 30 documentaries, winning numerous awards including three Emmy Awards, two PBS Programming Awards for News and Current Affairs, the Ohio State Award, and ALMA Award, the Dupont Columbia Gold Baton and others.

Manuel Tsingaris has been an editor for over twenty years.  His experience ranges from documentaries and commercials, to music videos and magazine style programming.  Some of his recent projects include The Storm that Swept Mexico, Writ Writer, A Dream in Doubt, and China Blue.  Manuel was also a contributing editor on the critically acclaimed mini documentary series Life 360, a co-venture between ABC/Nightline and PBS.

Edie Rubinowitz is an associate professor in Northeastern Illinois University's Department of Communication, Media and Theatre where she developed a journalism minor and teaches News Writing, Multimedia Storytelling, and the Fundamentals of Media Writing.  For many years, she was a public radio reporter at Chicago Public Radio.

Risks and challenges

After 5 years of filming in this rough but inspiring neighborhood, sometimes we feel like we've seen just about everything. But surprises can (and have!) come up.

We can't control the obstacles ahead, but we can control how we react to them. This film isn't just a project to any of us - it is a tribute to the lives and stories of the recyclers, our own lives, and the connections between us all. These 5 years have taught us that our stories - and our destinies - are intertwined.

Whatever it takes, this film will be finished, and it will be finished beautifully. Your support is key in making this dream a reality. We are grateful for your time and we sincerely hope you'll join us in this endeavor.

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Sincere thanks from Amir and the team, posted in the form of a Twitter/Facebook shout out (please include your Twitter handle if you want us to tweet you!). We will also display your name on our Website’s “Redeem Team” section. Also, if you email us a photo and a quote (optional), we’ll post your picture on our social media!

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    A social media shout out, as well as a thank-you postcard from Amir featuring a unique still from the film.

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    The shout out and postcard from Amir, PLUS a digital download of the film (when released).

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    All the joys of the $40 level, PLUS a hand-made journal, made of completely recycled paper products!

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    We'll send you the postcard, digital download, PLUS a special early edition signed DVD of the film (when released!)

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    2 hand-emblazoned limited edition Dogtown Redemption drinking glasses! These glasses are made from bottles recycled at Alliance Metals, and re-purposed by Oakland glass artist David Levi. Includes the digital download and everything in the $25 category.

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    All the good stuff from the $75 level, PLUS an original poster of the film!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Everything from the $150 Tier, PLUS a personal tour of the Alliance Metals Recycling Center and other notable West Oakland locations (travel/lodging not included). If you are outside the area, we will organize a 20 minute Skype interview with you - ask us anything!

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    You'll enjoy everything from the $500 level, plus two tickets to a private screening at the Saul Zaentz Media Center, home of our office, the legendary Fantasy Studios, and countless academy-award nominated and winning films (travel/lodging not included, 10 available).

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    Bring Dogtown Redemption to your city! We will arrange a screening in your town, and Amir will personally deliver every gift from the $1000 tier.

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    Join us at a future film festival! As Dogtown Redemption is screened around the country, you can join the crew at the festival of your choice (airfare not included, lodging is included).

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Funding period

- (42 days)