Alliance Metals, a recycling center in the Dogtown neighborhood of West Oakland, collected bottles and cans from hundreds of walk-up clients daily, providing meager but steady sums to the homeless and poor, until the City of Oakland strongarmed the business to close in 2016.
Amir Soltani’s 2015 documentary Dogtown Redemption offered a sympathetic portrait of recyclers orbiting Alliance including the methodical Jason Witt, former minister Landon Goodwin and former underground musician Hayok Kay (who suffered a fatal assault after production). It also covered tension between recyclers and other West Oakland residents whose complaints of Alliance encouraging blight and petty crime led to its closure soon after the feature’s release.
The documentary—screening Sunday, Sept. 22 at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive as a part of a fall program spotlighting the Berkeley Film Foundation—remains a stirring, emotionally textured picture of poverty amid gentrification. After five years, it’s also a reminder of how little punitive measures pursued against recyclers did to alleviate homelessness and its symptoms in West Oakland, which have only grown more pronounced.