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Cult Vault #15: Lucy Walker on Streetwise

Oscar nominated director Lucy Walker shows us the documentary that first inspired her

Taken from the June 2011 issue of Dazed & Confused: 

Lucy Walker was recently nominated for an Oscar for her documentary Waste Land, set on Rio’s landfill sites, while her new film Countdown To Zero examines the ever-present danger posed by nuclear weapons. For this month’s Cult Vault, she looks back on a 1984 documentary that first inspired her. Streetwise follows street kids in Seattle as they turn tricks, dive dumpsters and try to navigate a world that both shuns and exploits them. Director Martin Bell took his subject from the Life magazine feature ‘Streets Of The Lost’ by his wife, photographer Mary Ellen Mark. 

“What I love about Streetwise is the intimacy. You see 14-year olds fall in love, do drugs, die; you can’t believe the camera is there while these lives are unfolding. As a filmmaker, if you’re able to work in a place that is at once real and dramatic, it can be so powerful. Sometimes people feel like camera crews barge into lives, steal people’s souls and then edit misleadingly, leaving behind a trail of devastated lives. That’s not the case here. Documentary features like Streetwise and Hoop Dreams prove that real life can be as emotionally compelling as fiction. They can serve as a mirror for people to reflect on their own lives, and be a window for audiences to see into lives and issues that they don’t ordinarily have access to.”