USA, 2008, 76 minutes
Thu, Apr 30 / 8:35 / PFA / CALI30P
Sat, May 2 / 6:45 / Kabuki / CALI02K
Mon, May 4 / 3:30 / Kabuki / CALI04K
Filmed over a five-year period from 2003 to 2008, Lee Anne Schmitt’s visually ravishing document of the devastation and desolation of California’s abandoned industrial towns is a wholly unique meditation on natural and man-made environs, at once languid and heartbreaking. Set against California’s beautifully diverse yet unforgiving terrain, California Company Town unearths the blight of industry and the failure of utopian naiveté among landscapes that appear ominously disinterested in human triumphs and tragedies, desires and needs. From the fogs of Scotia, a company lumber town behind northern California’s “redwood curtain,” to the parched horizons of the Salton Sea and the blandness of Silicon Valley, Schmitt—and viewers—witness bleak worlds rarely seen by Bay Area denizens or the urbanites of L.A. Images of sweeping horizons and vacant factories are interspersed with poignant commentary, sparsely accompanied by archival sound recordings and footage. The voices of Ronald Reagan and César Chávez provide alternately ironic and poignant commentary on images of giant toppling redwoods and the stoic faces of Italian workers, striking laborers, captains of industry and Japanese Americans interred at Manzanar. Schmitt’s carefully assembled juxtapositions reveal forgotten towns anew, their current states of desolation and decrepitude now haunted by the past and haunting in their silence. In this young and fragile experiment called America, plunderers of nature and culture stand condemned of far-reaching abuses of the once-authentic promise of progress.
—Sean F. Diggins
Presented in association with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. GGA Documentary Feature Contender.