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Cult Vault #37: Matt Porterfield on Streetwise

Matt Porterfield on why he chose Martin Bell's 1984 documentary looking at teens in Seattle

Taken from the May 2013 issue of Dazed & Confused:

Martin Bell’s gritty Tom Waits-soundtracked doc Streetwise (1984) grew out of a Life magazine photo assignment his wife Mary Ellen Mark worked on; it revealed a Seattle underbelly of hustlers, dumpster divers and teen prostitutes, showing that even in “America’s most liveable city” desperation was rampant. The film struck a lasting chord with US indie director Matt Porterfield, whose latest project, I Used to Be Darker, screened in Sundance and Berlin. 

“I found Streetwise in my local video store and fell in love with it. No movie exists with more humanity and pathos. The subjects – Tiny, Rat, Dewayne, Shadow, Chrissie, Munchkin, Baby Gramps – are iconic in that self-aware, grown-up-too-soon, nothing-to-lose way, and are funny and grave in equal measure. As a document, it’s the epitome of what theorist André Bazin calls cinema’s ability to ‘embalm time’: these beautiful lives, hard and presumably short, burn on but don’t wait.”