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In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with Scarecrow Video to bring you weekly reviews of historical Seattle films. Each week we will showcase a new movie, with special emphasis on how these films show Seattle's most filmable locations.
Streetwise (1984)
Streetwise is an engrossing and heartbreaking documentary about a group of homeless kids living on the streets of downtown Seattle near Pike Place Market back when this part of town was at its sleaziest and most depressed. The filmmakers focus on the lives of nine different teenagers, all of whom have found a way to get by despite having little if no support from their families or society in general. The camera unflinchingly captures the day-to-day existence of these surprisingly strong and resourceful children. The teens get by with their wits and have resorted to prostitution, hustling and dumpster diving in order to survive. Most of the location footage is concentrated around 1st and Pike with glimpses of landmarks like The Space Needle and The Public Market sign. There are also sprinkles of downtown at its seedy pinnacle with blocks full of adult movie theaters, shady characters and deserted storefronts. One of the youths even squats in an abandoned hotel. Other forgotten businesses that the kids frequent are a video arcade and a donut shop. Most of these places are long gone and have been converted into upscale boutiques and exclusive apartment buildings. Local musical treasure Baby Gramps performs "The Teddy Bears' Picnic" and Tom Waits contributes a song to the closing credits. Director Martin Bell later made the shot-in-Seattle Jeff Bridges drama American Heart, which is a fictionalized account of the relationship between one of the street kids and his father. Despite being a singular example of American Cinema Verite and earning a nomination for an Academy Award, Streetwise is not available on DVD or streaming video but your trusted pals at Scarecrow Video have multiple copies of the film available for rent on VHS.
--Spencer Hoyt

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