I’ve been both repulsed and sickly fascinated by the Bumfights saga ever since 2002, when lawsuits over the violent stunt-and-brawl videos broke into national news. For the uninitiated, the story begins with a few young men wandering the streets of San Diego, getting homeless people drunk before filming them performing dangerous and degrading stunts. The “filmmakers” sold the videos on the Internet, raking in millions, leaving the homeless men they filmed out in the cold.
In a recent article for the San Diego CityBeat, David Silva provides some much-needed closure. It’s precisely the sort of coverage absent from sensational headlines–the resolution, even a happy ending of sorts. Silva chronicles “stunt bums” Rufus Hannah and Donald Brennan’s chance encounter with San Diego property owner and manager Barry Soper, who became deeply involved in the men’s lives, helping them find legal representation and escape the filmmakers’ increasingly sadistic abuse.
These days, Hannah has become a passionate advocate for the homeless, speaking around the country and lobbying for legislation that would make attacks on them a hate crime in California. (Since Bumfights was first released, Silva reports that violence against homeless people has risen dramatically, and copycat videos now proliferate online.) And Brennan, recently married, told Silva: “I have a wife, food in the refrigerator, money in my pocket. I’m living life the way it’s supposed to be lived.”
On a related note, CityBeat runs a Homeless Person of the Week feature, to put “names on the faces of San Diego’s homeless.”