“The Nine” is an intimate and unflinching portrait of a ravaged community living on Modesto's South Ninth Street — "The Nine” — a barren, forgotten street in California’s Great Central Valley (the setting for “The Grapes of Wrath” and Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother”). The film focuses on Kiki, an effervescent and childlike drifter whose only means of escape is through her imagination and whose precarious sense of self-worth hinges on the making of the film. Despite its harrowing subject matter, the documentary never sensationalizes — rather, it serves as a quiet elegy to Kiki and four others living on the Nine, each of whom clings to the possibility of an alternate life. Director Katy Grannan — a highly regarded photographer who publishes in venues such as the New Yorker — offers consistently striking imagery of sometimes weirdly unsettling beauty. Beautifully edited, the film follows a basic chronological path but makes unusual connections between scenes, offering poetic montages — often set to aptly chosen and evocative songs and music — and periodically speeding up and slowing down its rhythms to great effect. Kiki’s thoughtful philosophical musings on her life and larger existential questions are threaded throughout the film, evoking Terrence Malick’s use of voice-over. In its stark, unvarnished presentation of the addicts and prostitutes who have ended up on the Nine, the film offers insight into why they now reside there — cycles of poverty, neglect, and abuse — but refuses to offer simplistic diagnoses or easy solutions to the societal problems it so vividly captures.