Bumfight Tonight 

Blumenauer Huffs and Puffs About the Homeless

In one scene, a homeless crack addict sets his own hair on fire. In another, a homeless man and woman swing wildly at each other in a public bathroom. A pet project of two California film students, a gratuitous shock-value video called Bumfights has attracted the condemnation of Oregon's representative Earl Blumenauer. In fact, the Congressman is so incensed, he's called for an FBI investigation and last month, stood on the floor of the House of Representatives to express his outrage.

The one-hour video at the center of Blumenauer's bullseye plays to the same macabre sensibilities that support shows like MTV's Jackass. When released, it created a small buzz, selling about 10,000 copies. But after radio show host Howard Stern featured the video on his show, sales skyrocketed past a quarter-million copies. The overnight success caught the attention of vigilante homeless advocates who, in turn, alerted the U.S. Congressman.

Rep. Blumenauer's office was first alerted to the video by Chuck Curry, a longtime homeless advocate in Portland. Curry is the local chair of the National Coalition for the Homeless. In turn, Blumenauer requested a federal investigation. Likening the video to outlawed cock and dog fights, Blumenauer requested that the FBI, U.S. Customs, and the U.S. Postal Service investigate whether shipping the video across state lines violates any interstate commerce clauses. But, according to a congressional aide, the FBI shrugged off the implications.

In spite of his pledged indignation about the treatment of the homeless, Blumenauer's Congressional record shows little evidence of his concern where it counts. The Congressman has never introduced a bill to address the causes of homelessness. He also has never visited Dignity Village, the local camp of homeless men and women. An aide, however, did point out that on St. Patrick's Day, he spent two hours attending the 30th Anniversary for local homeless shelter Central City Concern. His office also indicated he has consistently supported "housing issues."

One aide countered the suggestion that Bumfights is an incidental concern and not worthy of such a Congressional hubbub. She points outs there were 130 reported homicides of homeless men and women last year, and videos like Bumfight glorify such violence.

The filmmakers deny accusations of exploiting or glorifying violence against the homeless. Many of the participants were paid, and the filmmakers have pledged 10 percent of sales to two homeless charities.

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