Documentary – International / Joint UK Premiere
Alma Har’el/USA/2011/80 min/TBC
Life below the poverty line is the subject of Alma Har’el’s Bombay Beach, a documentary that takes place in the Californian desert, which is also the home of the artificial Salton Sea, which is in the middle of the desert, and also happens to be one of the poorest regions in the USA.
Set in contemporary Bombay Beach and the surrounding areas, the film follows Red, a man in his nineties, Ceejay, a teenager sent to the area to escape the violence of LA, and Benny, a hyperactive young boy, who is struggling to be heard in an ever-increasing family as they live their lives in one of the US’ poorest towns.
The concept of the Californian desert sustaining a volatile sea seems completely unnatural, and it’s a thought that’s only strengthened by the film’s analysis of the lives of the people that find themselves living in this inhospitable place. While the Salton Sea was once a popular holiday destination for the rich and the famous, this film reveals the extent of the pollution and poverty that has destroyed this area, whilst showcasing the inhabitants’ sense of hope and survival. By following the three very different subjects, the film unearths a bleak picture of modern America from the eyes of those most maligned by society, the poor, the elderly, and the young child who are united in the sense that they are outsiders. This sense of togetherness, and of community gives Bombay Beach its appeal, because it shows a group of people in desperate circumstances who have an incredible support network. Touching, funny, and featuring some impressive choreography, Har’el’s Bombay Beach is an endearing and standout documentary on poverty that shows the very real cost of being poor.