A film by Manfred Kirchheimer
2014, 77 minutes
No. 152

Manfred Kirchheimer’s deeply humane Canners takes to the streets in an ode to the men and women who earn their daily bread by diligently collecting New York City’s bottles and cans.

He talks to them about their struggles, their families, and their dreams, never straying too far from his work’s abiding subject, survival in the city.

This lyrical documentary, along with his award-winning previous films (Stations of the Elevated (1981), We Were So Beloved (1985), Tall: The American Skyscraper and Louis Sullivan (2004), among many others) makes a superb addition to a body of work fifty years in the making, defined by Whitmanesque generosity and grandeur.

“Manfred Kirchheimer is an indispensable New York filmmaker, a noticer and a listener without peer…. Mr. Kirchheimer doesn’t appear on camera, but he is a presence in the film all the same. It is clear that the can collectors trust him, which means that, through the wonderful alchemy of cinema, it feels as if they trust you. And that trust, in turn, delivers a powerful ethical message about what it means to live in a city, and how each of us can choose to acknowledge or ignore our fellow citizens… Canners is a testament to its director’s indefatigable humanism, and to the human beings who feed it.” – A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“While Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and Spike Lee are among the most celebrated of these, few have filmed the city as loyally, or as marvelously, as Manfred Kirchheimer.” – Eric Hynes, The New York Times

“Revelatory. With Canners, the Great Manfred Kirchheimer again surveys a New York most miss.” – Michael J. Agovino, Village Voice