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Scrappers on Ebert’s Best Documentaries of 2010

Directors Ben Kolak, Brian Ashby, and Courtney Prokopas’s documentary film Scrappers was named one of Roger Ebert’s Best Documentaries of 2010 and has received rave reviews across Chicago. The film will be aired at Doc Films on Friday, January 21 at 7 pm.

Scrappers follows the lives of two Chicago men who collect scrap metal for a living in the alleys of Chicago. The film takes us into the homes of Otis and Oscar, two Chicagoans who earn their living cruising Chicago’s streets and alleys to cash in on scrap metal.  The film focuses on many types of work: finding metals, raising children, understanding the city, and surviving the recession.  Ebert says of the film makers, “They put in the hours in the alleys and brought back a human document.”

Kolak, Ashby, and Prokopas are graduates of the College (AB ’06), and until recently Ashby worked as a Program Assistant with the South Asia Language and Area Center (SALAC) and the Committee on Southern Asian Studies (COSAS) within the Division of the Humanities. Scrappers previously won awards for “Best Documentary Feature” and the “Audience Award” at the 2010 Chicago Underground Film Festival.

The trio were interviewed in this month’s issue of Core.  From the website:

The economic crash may have affected the entire country, but the documentary, which will be screened at Doc Films January 21 at 7 p.m., is uniquely Chicago. “This film could not have been made anywhere else,” says Ashby. The scrappers thrive here (prices have gone back to the regular average, about one-third of the boom prices in the film), he says, because of a combination of the city’s alleyway grid, “which allows these guys to move essentially unharrassed for most of the day,” a subpar recycling system, and a lax set of laws surrounding scrapping. “It’s illegal to scrap without a junk peddler’s license,” says Ashby, “but it’s a system that’s so unenforced that I doubt most police officers even know about it.”

Read the article on the Core website here, and Ebert’s review can be found here.

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