Posted January 24, 2011 in

J.R. getting ready to head out into the kill zone in "Scrappers". Picture by Kim Stringfellow

Slamdance Film Festival
Dir: Stephan Wassmann

Any documentary featuring fearless, meth-infested rednecks should automatically go in your Netflix cue (you’ve seen "The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia", right?) and "Scrapper" is no exception. Southern California’s Chocolate Mountains are home to practice ranges open to the military 365, 24/7 and they drop bombs, fire rounds, and blow shit up from above. Tanks, APVs, the ground—all targets of their clusterbombs and high-calibers. What to do with the scrap bomb parts, though... Ever ones to not give a shit about the world’s resources, the military won’t salvage the no-man’s land. That is unofficially left to the rednecks inhabiting Niland, CA—home to 60% unemployment and a sea of trailer parks. The aptlt named scrappers (for their love of scrap metal) have no option but to scour the countryside for recyclable aluminum and brass, braving a minefield of unexploded behemoths occassionally armed with payloads. Though the story is a bid slipshod in construction and the audio is hard to decipher at points, the documentary wins on subjects/characters alone. The cadre of candy loving, late-night reveling and chicken bone twisting misfits that comb the ranges are the only reasons for watching. Forget the Whites, these tweakers are true outlaws risking death when they venture a land littered with more bombs than I’ve ever seen, dotting the land and highway. A highway seen hosting coyotes with two cars packed full of immigrants, at one point. ICE rarely goes by the range because, wisely, they don’t want to explode. Which makes it a perfect homestead for people like three-tour Vietnam vet J.R., a former Marine and P.O.W. who has a whole valley to himself with a strictly enforced no trespassing rule. Other hoodlums rove the remaining ranges climbing in tanks, carrying clusterbombs and genuinely enacting post-Apocalyptic metal recycling at its best. Props to the brave cameramen and producers who visited both the range and the unforgiving 115 degree homes of these rejects—the footage is worth it. A tighter edit and some better direction would make worthy viewing for anyone interested in what happens after the military punishes the badlands. As it sits, "Scrapper" is an apt portrait of discarded people scavenging the spoils of war.


J.R. getting ready to head out into the kill zone in "Scrappers". Picture by Kim Stringfellow J.R. Taylor scrapping in the kill zone in "Scrappers".  Picture by Kim Stringfellow Impact area 'Downtown' in Scrappers". Picture by Kim Stringfellow Tank target Chocolate Mtn. Gunnery Range in "Scrappers" Picture by Kim Stringfellow NAF El Centro Warning Sign on Highway 78 in 'Scrappers". Picture by Kim Stringfellow Scrappers Downey and Randy. Picture by Kim Stringfellow