Review: ‘Scrapper’

A nervy look at people who eke out a living illegally collecting scrap on California desert military bombing ranges.

Stephen Wassmann’s raw only-in-America doc “Scrapper” displays nerve and a funky taste for oddities as it dwells with people who eke out a living illegally collecting scrap on California desert military bombing ranges. The collision of U.S. military prowess and the poorest of the poor is there for the viewer to consider — along with the filmmakers’ risks — amid the wild maneuvers between bombings. Ideal Slamdance material will win fans wherever it plays, in fests and alt venues.

Focusing on the same area (including a few subjects) as Alma Har’el’s Berlin-preem docu, “Bombay Beach,” “Scrapper” is far less artful but more grassroots in approach. Various “scrappers,” ranging from crafty vet Downey to down-on-his-luck Randy, drive onto the range after bombing runs to gather up metal fragments for recycling while keeping an eye out for the law. Old coot J.R., a character and a half, operates in a zone where no other scrappers venture. Narration by Adam Edwards is near-risible.

Scrapper

Production

A Little Mules Prods. presentation. Produced by Stephan Wassmann, Olivier Hermitant. Co-producers, Michael DiGregorio. Directed, edited by Stephan Wassmann. Written by Wassmann, Michael DiGregorio; based on an article by DiGregorio.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Wassmann; music, Hermitant. Reviewed on DVD, Rotterdam, Jan. 30, 2011. (In Slamdance Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Downey, Steve, J.R., Randy, Jesse, Gary Kavanaugh, Mike Aleksick, Kevin Miller, Enrique Lozano, Sgt. Charles R. Lucas. Narrator: Adam Edwards.
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