Kent Mackenzie's 1961 film about Native Americans living in Downtown Los Angeles premiered that year at the Venice Film Festival but was not released commercially. In 2008, after getting a new life through Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself and the UCLA Film and Television Archive, "The Exiles" came out to critical raves. From Kenneth Turan in 2008:
Working on less than a shoestring (the original budget was $539), cinematographers Erik Daarstad, Robert Kaufman and John Morrill -- all, like director Mackenzie, affiliated with USC's film school -- captured a brooding picture of a darkly beautiful, long-gone Los Angeles. We see the houses of Bunker Hill in the days of Angels Flight as well as a lively, brightly lit albeit raucous downtown, home to establishments such as Cooper Do-Nuts and a barber college offering 25-cent haircuts to all comers.
Determined to present an honest portrait of the city's lost and lonely Native American population and avoid what he called the "romance of poverty," filmmaker Mackenzie spent many months hanging out with his subjects and included them as collaborators on the film. What resulted, shot and edited from 1958 to 1961, was a form of docudrama, with real people compellingly reenacting scenes from their lives and commenting on them in poignant voice-overs.
Here's the review by Manohla Dargis. The UCLA Hammer Museum screens "The Exiles" on Wednesday night; it's free but tickets are needed. Enjoy the trailer for scenes of Downtown from 1961 — including a shot of the Los Angeles Theatre on Broadway, where this year's Last Remaining Seats debuts the same night.