This award-winning film
This award-winning film
(it won a best documentary prize at the Tribeca Film Festival) is a languid,
surreal, feverish journey into the underbelly of American society – the lives
of a bunch of outsiders thrown together by circumstance.
Like a bunch of misfits cast out by society, Israeli-born
filmmaker Alam Har’el’s documentary
follows the individuals and families who have thrown in their lot and opted to
join the small community living on a dusty, poverty-stricken trailer park.
The 385-square-mile body of water in California, created in
1905 when the tumultuous Colorado River spilled its banks, became the hotspot
for celebrities and tourists during the 50s and ’60s. But it soon became
unfashionable, and fell into a state of disrepair. It’s what is left of this
once desirable resort that Har’el explores.
The residents of the junk-filled ‘Bombay Beach’ (less than
300 to quote the 2010 census) exist in a strange twilight zone of joblessness,
whiskey at sundown, rusting ruins.
The film explores the lives of three male residents of
different ages. Red, now in his 80s but still with a twinkle in his eye for the
pretty ladies, is a former oil worker who lives, for the most part off the
money he gets from flogging contraband cigarettes bought at an Indian
CeeJay Thompson, is an African-American high school student
whose mother made him leave LA to escape the gangland life, after he witnessed
his beloved cousin killed in a gangland shooting. With dreams of becoming an
N.F.L. player, he works out all day and tries to get good grades so he can go
Then there’s the mournful Benny Parrish, a bipolar grade
schooler who was separated from his parents in 2002 when he was 3 weeks old and
they were arrested on suspicion of terrorism and served two years behind bars.
Moments depicting the harsh, often dull realities of life at
Bombay Beach are dissected with dream-like, slowed down sequences that seem
almost choreographed – such as the one in which some young children play at
formal dining, or Red enjoys a dance with one of the park’s younger female
They are moments of unexpected beauty and even unbridled
joy, scenes that depict a colourful and passionate inner life in its characters
that could never be guessed at by the ramshackle nature of these people’s
Yet intriguing as it is, this documentary leaves you feeling
desolate and rootless yourself – and thankful that, like a bad dream, it’s all
over and you can get back to real life.