If the United States had a caste system, the residents of Bombay Beach would be its Untouchables. Less than 300 people live in this long-abandoned California resort, escaping violence, living like nomads, or stuck there because of the poverty that comes from a criminal record where a high school diploma should be.
The Montreal Documentary Film Festival (RIDM) has chosen Bombay Beach to be the first screening in their monthly series, Docville.
“Bombay Beach is part of a trend in the United States where most of the film is shot with a Canon camera,” said Roxanne Sayegh, executive director of RIDM. “It’s very organic— sometimes it has aspects of a music video—it tries to film the post-American dream America.”
With its desert location and rusted trailers, the film often looks more post-apocalyptic than just post-American dream. In one scene, a man with a broken arm is lying motionless on the ground and keeps telling passersby to leave him there. Trying to convince him to go to the hospital, a woman warns that if there’s internal bleeding he could die. His answer: “Good.”
American-Israeli filmmaker Alma Har’el adds a poetic quality to Bombay Beach by filming deeply personal moments in the lives of these people. Once she’s established their bleak reality, the most surprising thing becomes their sense of hope.
Films that will appear in Docville are going to be Montreal premieres and are chosen only a few weeks before the next scheduled screening. Bombay Beach is the exception, as RIDM has been wanting to show it to Montreal audiences since last year.
Sayegh said, “We want films that are getting attention—good press coverage, awards, and recognition. There has to be a reason why we’ll put a film in the series—is it a film that’s ‘urgent?’”
Bombay Beach is being co-presented with Pop Montreal and features music by Bob Dylan and Beirut.
After the screening, the film’s director will be there via Skype to speak with the audience. The film is being shown at the Excentris, and Sayegh said she’s curious to see if Concordia students will venture to an off-campus location to get their indie film fix.
Starting Jan. 26, a total of eight movies will be shown on the last Thursday of each month until September, with the exception of July. A membership card that costs $50 will give one access to every film in the series. For those who take the leap-of-faith and purchase the budget-friendly movie card, Sayegh promises that the titles will all push the genre of documentaries and no two will be alike.
“We feel an obligation towards the community in Montreal,” Sayegh said. “We want to make it an experience, and Bombay Beach is a good film for that.”
Bombay Beach plays at 7 p.m. on Jan. 26 at Excentris Cinema (3536 St-Laurent Blvd.) Student tickets are $8.50. For more information, go to www.ridm.qc.ca.