Named one of the top ten documentaries of 2010 by film critic Roger Ebert, Scrappers follows two Chicago families who make ends meet using brains, brawn, and battered pickup trucks. Shot in vérité style, the film focuses on work: finding metals; raising children; understanding the city. The film questions popular notions of poverty, race relations, and recycling and examines dreams of personal self-sufficiency and urban sustainability.
Arriving from Honduras, Oscar found scrapping more enriching than other occupations open to undocumented immigrants. He searches alleys 14 hours a day to support his undocumented wife and American-born son. Yet without a driver’s license or insurance, Oscar’s trucks break down or disappear to the impound lot. Police run-ins leave him conflicted over which might be the lesser of two evils, deportation or remaining trapped in the land of opportunity.
Otis, age 73 and proud father of 12, learned scrapping over 40 years ago. With help from his third wife and her son, he searches out metal from appliances and garages, enabling them to escape a decrepit public housing project. Even in the face of slumlords and brain surgery, Otis’ wisdom and hustle light the way towards stability. But when the financial collapse causes metal prices to plummet, he faces near insurmountable obstacles to starting over.
Seasoned metal trader Mike explains the work of informal scrap laborers in a global context.
Scrappers tackles the geography of a still-segregated city, the hidden lives of undocumented immigrants, and the complex economics of recycling through an examination of daily life. The story is propelled by Chicago musician Frank Rosaly’s percussive score.