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Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature 1984's STREETWISE is our next Rialto Recommends. Seattle, 1983. Taking their camera to the streets of what was supposedly America's most livable city, filmmaker Martin Bell, photographer Mary Ellen Mark, and journalist Cheryl McCall set out to tell the stories of those society had left behind: homeless and runaway teenagers living on the city's margins. Born from a "Life" magazine exposé by Mark and McCall, STREETWISE follows an unforgettable group of at-risk children—including iron-willed fourteen-year-old Tiny, who would become the project's most haunting and enduring face, along with the pugnacious yet resourceful Rat and the affable drifter DeWayne—who, driven from their broken homes, survive by hustling, panhandling, and dumpster diving. Granted remarkable access to their world, the filmmakers craft a devastatingly frank, nonjudgmental portrait of lost youth growing up far too soon in a world that has failed them. In his four-star review Roger Ebert said "STREETWISE is surprising for the frankness of the material it contains. How did the filmmakers get these people to say these things, to allow the cameras into their lives?" And the Time Out said "Bell and his team clearly gained the confidence of their subjects, and despite their depressing lives, the kids reveal themselves in all their naive vitality." STREETWISE is streaming exclusively on the Criterion Channel HERE. According to the film's Wikipedia page: "In March 2013 a Streetwise Facebook group was opened up in hopes of finding the children from the documentary. Almost all the main characters (and some minor characters) were found. The group has recent pictures of Rat, Munchkin, Tiny, Justin, Lillie and many others. There are also memorials set up for the kids who are deceased. Old videos and pictures of the kids were found and posted. As of 2015, over 1,700 fans and Streetwise alumni participate and post in the group. Both Martin Bell and Mary Ellen Mark (posthumously) commented that they greatly enjoyed seeing all the kids they filmed over 30 years ago."

Film Facts
Running Time
Indie Film
MPAA Rating
Erin Blackwell
Dewayne Pomeroy
Lou Ellen Couch
Baby Gramps
Tom Waits
Directed by
Martin Bell
Produced by
Cheryl McCall
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