Gritty documentary looks at the life and lives of teenagers living on the streets of Seattle.



(story "Streets of the Lost")
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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A time capsule of teenage life in the 1980s.

Director: Keva Rosenfeld


Credited cast:
Roberta Joseph Hayes ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Baby Gramps ...
Erin Blackwell ...
Herself (as Tiny)
Lou Ellen Couch ...
Herself (as Lulu)
Kim ...
Lillie ...
Munchkin ...
Patti ...
Dewayne Pomeroy ...
Rat ...
Shadow ...
Shellie ...


Portrays the lives of nine desperate teenagers. Thrown too young into a seedy grown up world, these runaways and castaways survive, but just barely. Rat, the dumpster diver. Tiny, the teen prostitute. Shellie, the baby-faced blonde. DeWayne, the hustler. All old beyond their years. All underage survivors fighting for life and love on the streets of downtown Seattle. Written by Fiona Kelleghan <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


At 13, there's not much Lillie hasn't seen. Except love. See more »




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Release Date:

1984 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Picked by Entertainment Weekly magazine as one of the "50 Greatest Independent Films" in a special supplement devoted to independent films that was only distributed to subscribers in November 1997. See more »


Rat: [To Erin in jail] "You can take the 'ho off the street, but you can't take the street off the 'ho."
See more »


Features Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) See more »


Take Care Of All My Children
Written and Performed by Tom Waits
See more »

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User Reviews

Questions of 'Streetwise' authenticity answered.
21 November 2004 | by See all my reviews

'STREETWISE' the documentary film

Director & Cameraman: Martin Bell

Sound Recordist: Luther Keith Desmond

The rest of the credits are on the 'Streetwise' web site.

Recently, someone mentioned '…Didn't you have summat to do with Streetwise?….' This prompted me to look through the Streetwise website for the first time. I was more than a trifle surprised to find, there's a whole raft of you out there believe this remarkable film was 'scripted.' As the only soundman on the streets of Seattle during the filming of Streetwise, had there been a script, it would have been necessary for me to have a copy. There was no script - period.

The relationship between Dewayne and his father was later developed into a story by Peter Silverman. Martin Bell, Mary Ellen Mark and Peter Silverman wrote a screenplay, which became the 1992 movie 'American Heart' directed by Martin Bell.

Cheryl McCall, who is down as the writer on the website, is most certainly a writer, and also the credited producer of Streetwise. The entire film was inspired by an article in Life magazine (1983) entitled 'Streets of the Lost'- text by Cheryl McCall, photographs by Mary Ellen Mark. All of the action on the street and all of the dialogue in the film is that of the kids. How do I know? Well I recorded the stuff. No-one could write dialogue that good.

Some have thought 'Streetwise' was too beautifully filmed to be a documentary. For the UK television audience, the quality of the images in Streetwise was standard documentary TV in the early 80's. I only mention this, as the crew shooting 'Streetwise' were Limey's. Martin and I had worked together for fifteen years - cutting our teeth on documentaries shot for UK television.

The Limey factor proved to be a stumbling block at the outset. The kids on Pike Street were confused by the accents of two bearded characters, unable to speak American properly, and it took us two to three weeks to convince them we were not the CIA. In two and a half months we shot close on 50 hours of film. This is normal for obtaining enough content to give the editor a chance of constructing a truthful account.

Some of you on the web indicate disbelief as to how some sequences were gathered, indicating a possibility of manipulating the contributors.

The only manipulation of any contributor was administered by myself, in placing radio microphones on the characters involved. It could also be argued that it was manipulation to put a radio microphone on Tiny in her prison cell, prior to filming the visit by Rat. Likewise, with Dewayne's father, also in jail. If this was manipulation, I stand guilty as charged. This was the only way I could gather dialogue from contributors.

Many have expressed dismay or doubt, about the Coke can on the coffin of Dewayne. This was not orchestrated by the crew, simply a forgetful gesture by a father, out of jail for the day for the funeral, distraught at his failure towards his son. What you do not see in this scene is Dewayne's father giving his son a drink of coke from that can.

Some of you may be unaware of the dedication and involvement of the film editor and the editing crew. The skill, sensitivity and integrity of editor Nancy Baker and her sharp shooter assistant, Jonathan Oppenheim is overwhelming. These people make my stuff 'sound' good, and they gave us a memorable film.

I cannot offer you hopeful news on most of the street kids in Seattle, I only wish I could.

The last I heard was that Tiny (Erin) had now given birth to eight children – and is about to give birth to her ninth.

Lulu was killed by street kids, without provocation. Over 300 attended her funeral.

Shadow is now working in construction in Seattle.

Munchkin is a chef in a Seattle restaurant.

Patti died of AIDS.

Kim married a Navy Seal and has a child.

Rat, could be almost anywhere.

The rest, Dawn, Shellie, Lillie, I know nothing of.

Someone asked, who sang 'Teddy Bears picnic?' – this was not Tom Waits, but a street musician in Seattle known as 'Baby Gramps' – wasn't he good?

Luther Keith Desmond Sound Recordist London. U.K. November 2004

78 of 78 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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