Dogtown Redemption

Dogtown Redemption tells the story of the West Oakland residents who subsist recycling other people’s garbage. Specifically, it exposes the impoverished community that revolves around Alliance Recycling on Peralta Street. Many, if not most, of the recyclers are homeless, but the recycling center offers a regular, meager income and a binding sense of purpose to the most industrious among them.

Filmmakers Amir Soltani and Chihiro Wimbush created the film over seven years. It reveals a complex picture of a delicate economic system that sustains an entire community, providing work opportunity to over 1000 people in the neighborhood. While it acknowledges a power imbalance between Alliance’s wealthy owner, Jay Anast, and the people who supply a constant flow of scrap material, it paints a picture of a friendly and productive relationship between them, and the foundation of a functional community. It also highlights dire repercussions when the business gets sued by the City of Oakland, in a political vendetta to shut the place down due to unconfirmed criminal activity.

Most importantly, the film investigates the lives of individual recyclers, their histories, their relationships, and their somewhat chosen lifestyles, to illustrate the problem of poverty as both individual and systemic. Jason Witt, a warm-hearted recycling high-achiever, lives in a tent on the edge of Highway 80 with wife Heather Holloman, has a seven year old boy who lives with grandparents, and practices karate as a black belt. Hayok Kay, former drummer in a punk band, moves in and out of shelters, and suffers grief over the recent death of her partner. Charismatic Landon Goodwin climbs out of his life on the street, develops a ministry and gets married.


We gain intimate access to their struggles with drugs, their heartbreaks, successes and failures. We learn that not only does poverty transcend race, but so does love. The lives of these collectors are multidimensional and relations between them are dedicated and intimate.

AMC Theaters Bay Street sponsored this free screening in Emeryville which was organized by local online journal The E’ville Eye and John Bauters’ campaign for city council. John Bauters brings specialized knowledge and experience to issues of homelessness. If elected, he promises to be an informed and caring advocate for the poor in Emeryville.

Dogtown Redemption screens again tomorrow, June 18 at the West Oakland Youth Center at 3:00pm, a valuable opportunity for locals to meet the filmmakers, and to discuss these issues with the community in which the film takes place.

Saturday Stroll Uptown

Above:  Healing Spirit by Robert Beier

Oakland Art Murmur offers a free guided Saturday Stroll each month, third Saturday, through a different gallery district of the city. This month’s Stroll, themed Luminosity, explored gallery-rich Uptown along 23rd and 25th Streets, capping off at the uniquely fun Classic Cars West, a vintage car showcase/art gallery/vegan beer garden on 26th.

Curator Donna Napper began the tour at  Chandra Cerrito Contemporary where she serves as Artistic Director. Cathy Cunningham-Little‘s glass LED sculptures refract colorful, layered, geometric light beams. They hung on the walls like enchanted jewels, a highlight of the walk. Next door at Johansson Projects, we enjoyed two slow-moving light works by Craig Dorety. Influenced by light artists James Turrell and Jim Campbell, Dorety creates electronic flower bud-like sculptures whose hues transform over time. Dorety’s work belongs to the growing influence of LED and technology-based artwork in the Bay Area and abroad.


Pictured: Field of Tulips and Green Forest by Craig Dorety

Further aligned with this theme of “luminosity”, Krowswork Gallery presented Divine Invasions: Six Male Artists Allying with the Divine Feminine. I found Robert Beier’s pieces especially enjoyable.  His saturated digital drawings, primitive in style, belie a pleasing knack for composition and an authentic communication of spiritual states.

The day included visits to Mercury20 and Manna Gallery where several artists and curators discussed their work in person and gave us a deeper understanding of their motives and sources. Overall, we experienced a wide variety of art in this fulfilling tour of Uptown Oakland’s gallery scene.

Ex Nihilo at Octopus Literary Salon

Above:  Genevieve Perdue as Decima, Colleen Egan as Nona, Alexaendrai Bond as Morta.  

The Octopus Literary Salon offers a colorful space in uptown Oakland for “living room” gatherings of poets, playwrights, musicians and more.  Last night featured the third episode of Terra Incognita, a live serial audio drama, created by Ex Nihilo, a playwright collective that stages its own grass roots productions.  In the story, three bickering sisters find themselves on a spooky road trip whose trajectory gets determined by a cursed dartboard.  An evocative script, magically real, psychologically familiar, though rough around the edges, kept the audience chortling, and included live foley effects and musical interludes.  Brian Vouglas as the “unreliable narrator” added some polish with his perfectly projected vocals.  The next episode takes place on April 21 at 7pm.   IMG_0914.JPG

Photos by Kristin Cato

Saturday Stroll in Temescal

Every third Saturday of the month, Oakland Art Murmur offers Saturday Stroll district tours on foot.  Today it began at Interface Gallery, a one room space in Temescal Alley next to tiny specialty shops offering doughnuts, ice cream and exotic plants.  I am well acquainted with microcinemas but this was my first experience with microgalleries.  The Interface exhibition currently displays a single painting by Linda Geary (pictured) and a single sculpture by May Wilson.  Curator Suzanne L’Heureux passionately shared her process of starting a gallery, her curatorial process and the background of the artists.   She then led the Stroll (about a dozen folks) a few blocks away to the Royal Nonesuch Gallery at 43rd & Telegraph wherestood Free Alterations: A solo exhibition by Sarah HotchkissHotchkiss’s playful pieces colorfully drew attention to flaws in the physical space, though the concept suffered a bit as it served more as an inside joke among gallery staff.

While I loved the minimal offering at Interface and its spotlighting of a mere two (TWO!!) works, the Stroll as a whole left me hungry for more.  Two tiny galleries, and the event ended before the two hours advertised.  A seasoned Stroller told me it usually includes more gallery visits and sometimes runs over two hours.  I’ll have to check out a future stroll.  It seemed to be a great way to comfortably meet fellow art lovers, take in a neighborhood, hear directly from curators and artists, and check out local art.


Photo by Kristin Cato