The title of Andy Arrow's documentary Mettle is a pun that encompasses the two things his subjects need: recyclable scraps of discarded metal they can sell, and the fortitude to brave street scavenging and arrest to make a living doing it. The Brooklyn-based filmmaker, a former Nashvillian, hosts the local premiere of his documentary 7 p.m. Thursday at Bongo Upstairs Theatre above Bongo Java on Belmont.
"It began as a one-day, 10-minute YouTube video project, to see if I could shoot, edit, and score something simple and modest, with the view to making a 'real' movie on a different topic altogether, later," Arrow tells Country Life via email. "But as I quickly learned more about the recycling phenomenon, and the scope of the narrative greatly increased, this became 'the' movie and topic."
After discarding his old air conditioner on a New York sidewalk, only to have it disappear within moments, Arrow began to wonder about the practice of selling recyclables. That led him to a surprising discovery: Not only is it illegal to take pieces of junk discarded on the sidewalk — which become property of the city — those who do can face up to $10,000 in fines. He set out equipped with a Handycam, which he says is great for stealth work but not so great for megaplex-caliber footage.
"The good news is that the Handycam allowed me to approach people on the street, casually, and get raw, spontaneous interviews," Arrow tells Country Life. "Also, I accidentally filmed the cops making a stop, which you might have seen in the trailer, and which almost certainly would not have happened if they had seen a film crew, or even if they had seen me in advance with my Handycam, which they certainly did not."
Arrow is barnstorming the film around the country, and he'll arrive at Bongo Java Thursday night for a "red carpet" event at 7 p.m. before the screening at 8. Tickets are $10 at the door.