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Year: 1956
Language: English
Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 38 min
Director: Allan King
Writer: Ben Maartman
Cinematographer: Jack Long
Editor: Arla Saare
Music: John Avison
Narration: Art Hives
Production Company: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Allan King’s key, early documentary profile of three homeless alcoholics on Vancouver’s poorest streets is a harsh, moody and honest record of their lifestyles and their reactions to social conditions.

Skidrow is really two films in one. On one side of the coin is a documentary driven by the powerful narration of Ben Maartman’s script. A published writer whose day job as a social worker brings him to skid row, Maartman writes with lyrical brutality about a world without sentiment or hope. Intercut with this voice-over documentary is the film’s other side, which consists of interviews with the homeless men themselves; their quiet, matter-of-fact descriptions of their ruined lives helped make this film a harbinger of the new intimacy synch sound would bring to documentary filmmaking.

The style of Skidrow grew out of the Grierson tradition, but was clearly anticipating the more observational approach of the Candid Eye films. It also marked the first treatment of such subject matter on Canadian television and is an important example of the work of CBC Vancouver’s Film Unit. Part of the Explorations series, Skidrow received a Canadian Film Award for Best TV Information Film. It was also screened as part of the Canadian Retrospective series on King’s work at the Toronto International Film Festival® in 2002.

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