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Bombay Beach is one of the must see docs of 2011. The film won Best feature Documentary at Tribeca, Best Editing of Documentary Feature at Woodstock Film Festival, it got Special Jury Award and Special Mention at Sheffield Doc/Fest to name just some of their festival awards.
Bombay Beach is the first documentary by Alma Har’el, who has background in photography as well as being a video artist and a music video director. The film is about the community of Bombay Beach in California. In the 1950s the Colorado River flooded the desert, a dam was built and water filled the basin. Life flourished and Salton Sea became popular as a holiday destination where famous film stars and musicians were frequent guests. Restaurants, night clubs and resorts spread along the coast of Salton Sea, and the small town called Bombay Beach was formed at one side of the sea.
But now the golden years of Bombay Beach are gone and almost forgotten. Series of floods, lack of water outflow and high salinity killed all the fish in Salton Sea and Bombay Beach is now one of the poorest counties in California. The American Dream used to be chased in Bombay Beach but the dream dried up in the desert, leaving the inhabitants with the reality of poverty and social problems.
Director Alma Har’el first came to Bombay Beach to film a music video for the band Beirut. After looking for locations in the desert, Har’el and a friend drove along the Salton Sea and ended up in Bombay Beach. “I was pretty much hooked right away. It reminded me of a place I lived in for a few years when I was in Israel called Mitpe Ramon. A place that makes me feel like civilization is gone or only now beginning again after some horrible ending. On that evening I met Mike Jr. and Benny Parrish [Parrish is a character in Bombay beach documentary] on the beach, and asked them to be in the music video. We shot through sunset and I returned the day after to shoot in their house. Mike Jr. was playing Zach [Gordon, singer/songwriter/frontman of Beirut] when he was a young boy in what ended up being the music video for the song “Concubine” (press kit p.12).
Bombay Beach has received great reviews and critics praise the music of Beirut and Bob Dylan in the film, as well as the dance sequences. More can reviews found here.
VILLAGE VOICE “Hybrid doc knockout!”
REAL LIFE FILM “The visual personification of the mood created by Dylan’s Highway 61 album! – surreal, spiritual, non-linear, and a touch transcendent.”
FILMMAKER MAGAZINE “Alma Har’el! Stunningly shot, formally audacious, Bob Dylan and Beirut scored! Bombay Beach won the grand prize in the international documentary competition. Recalling the work of Harmony Korine, Larry Clark, Lynne Ramsay, David Gordon Green, Charles Burnettand, Gus Van Sant (just to name a few), it announces a major new directorial talent in Har’el !”
INDIE WIRE – THE PLAYLIST – (A) “Alma Har’el‘s debut feature showcases an assured talent, especially in areas that a lot of documentaries tend to over look, particularly cinematography and the soundtrack. “Bombay Beach” offers a sincere look at people who are rarely given this amount of attention in the film world.”
Following is the trailer for the film and an interview with Har’el at Berlinale Film Festival earlier this year. Above is a PR still from the film´s website. Those located in the USA can buy the film through all digital platforms. The DVD will be released January 17 2012 and can be preordered here.