Your Local Bootlegger

On Serving the Community

By Devisadaria Duchine-Khauli

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A small, wiry guy came up to me at the Berkeley Flea Market about five years ago, and asked if I wanted to buy pirated movies. Some years later, this same guy opened up a small store. Clean and well-maintained, the store sells average things like bath soaps, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, toothpaste, clothing, shoes and socks. But what’s not so average is the pirated movies for sale here.

The movies are neatly displayed on a wall and on tables. The gentleman selling the pirated movies is polite and professional. He runs his business like many great businessman—he’s always willing to exchange a movie for his clients if they’re unhappy with it.

Based on the nature of the business, I expected the bootlegger to tell me no when I asked for an interview, but to my surprise, he agreed. We met up at the shop, on a Friday afternoon.

Why did you start pirating movies?

I got I into bootlegging because I realized for the price of one movie ticket, a whole family could see a movie. Think about this, you have a family of four and by the time you buy movie tickets, popcorn, and drinks; you’re out about $80.00, but for less than $5.00 the whole family could see a movie.

Do you do anything else besides this?

I remodel houses and work on cars. You can’t just do this and think you’ll make a living at it. You have to do something else. This is a side hustle to make ends meet and get my project off the ground.

How much are your movies?

I sell one movie for $2.00 or three for $5.00

How much money do you typically make in a month?

I’ll pass on that question. Just put enough to pay for the lights. [laughs]

Do you give back to the community?

Yes, because people can’t afford to go to movies. You could pay $20.00 or more just to see one movie. I provide a service for the community by giving them something they might not otherwise be able to afford. I don’t just sell bootleg movies; I also sell other stuff in my store at a lower price than many stores.

I notice that your movies have numbers on them. What do they mean?

The numbers are how I rate the movies’ qualities. Like, if a movie is clear but the audio is not as good, it might get a 7 out of 10 rating. If the movie has perfect audio and video, it will get a 10 out of 10 rating.

Where do you get your movies to sell?

From the Internet.

What do you want this audience to know about you or what would you like to convey to this audience?

I’m not just bootlegger. I’ve been going to school for film-making. I want to make movies for the community. Once I make movies, I don’t care if people bootleg them because I know that the money will come from elsewhere, and I’m making them for the community anyway. I just want to get my movies out there.

Where do you see pirating going? I mean, will it last?

No, everything changes up. This is not here to stay. I mean, there’s streaming and everything else. Technology is changing and people are not into discs as much as they used to be. I’m getting out of this soon anyway. I want to be the one to make the movies, real movies, not bootlegs. I’ll keep my store front though, to continue to provide a store for the community.

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