First-Time Filmmaker explores bizarre community on the Salton Sea

Friday, November 02, 2007


Metzler’s Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea will be screened at Stanback Planetarium, Nov.11

ORANGEBURG –
The I.P. Stanback Museum & Planetarium presents indie filmmaker Christopher Metzler as part of the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers, Nov. 11.

The screening of Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea will be held in the planetarium on SC State’s campus on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 5 p.m. The screening is free and moviegoers will have an opportunity to speak with the filmmaker. Space is limited; reservations are encouraged. To make reservations, or to receive additional information, contact the museum at (803) 536-7174.The screening of Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea will be held in the planetarium on SC State’s campus on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 5 p.m. The screening is free and moviegoers will have an opportunity to speak with the filmmaker. Space is limited; reservations are encouraged. To make reservations, or to receive additional information, contact the museum at (803) 536-7174.

At a reception following the screening, Metzler will engage the audience in a discussion about the film and his work as a filmmaker. The film is presented as a community service of SC State.

In Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea, first-time filmmaker Christopher Metzler – in partnership with Jeff Springer – offers audiences an intimate portrait of the strange and wonderful characters, who cling to the shore of the Salton in spite of its empty lots, strange smells, and frequent wildlife die-offs.In Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea, first-time filmmaker Christopher Metzler – in partnership with Jeff Springer – offers audiences an intimate portrait of the strange and wonderful characters, who cling to the shore of the Salton in spite of its empty lots, strange smells, and frequent wildlife die-offs.

Created in the early 1900s by a monumental engineering disaster, the Salton Sea is now nothing more than a forgotten blue jewel in the midst of the California desert. But on the shores of this dying man-made lake a bizarre yet utterly American community struggles to survive. Here retirees rub shoulders with Hungarian revolutionaries here seeking refuge from Russian prosecution. Welfare families ditching the violence of the inner cities co-exist with religious eccentrics. And against all of these communities is the backdrop of the sea – both an “ecological disaster” and one of California’s few remaining wetlands.

Plagues and Pleasures has garnered much praise from the press and critics. The Village Voice called it “heartbreaking, sidesplitting parade of humanity,” while the Hollywood Reporter described it as “fascinating.” It has won “Best Documentary” at numerous film festivals, including both the Atlanta Underground Film Festival and the Savannah Film Festival, where it was also awarded the “HBO Producers Award.”

Metzler is not, however, resting in the light of his success. The filmmaker is already working on his next documentary, a look at the alternative rock band Fishbone. After this, he has plans to team up with Springer again for at least two more documentaries: one on taxidermy and another on evangelical Christian backpackers following the path of the apostle Paul across the Middle East. “We have a deep affection for outsiders, and we always want to explore different subcultures," Metzler said.

The Southern Circuit, produced by the Southern Arts Federation, provides independent filmmakers with the opportunity to travel to communities across the South, where they screen their films for local audiences and engage in post-screening conversations about their work. Produced without studio backing, many of these films would never be seen on a screen in this area of the country without Southern Circuit. This year, for the first time, there will be an additional short film opening each feature presentation, a selected “Short Circuit.”

The “Short Cicuit” that precedes Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea will be An Abstraction on the Chronology of Will by Ben Collins and Kevin Phillips. In this fiction film, William Porten is nothing short of apathetic and despondent after a break-up with his girlfriend. He joins the military, becomes a Special Op, and lives with a sustained note of danger until being faced with a firing squad in the middle of the desert.

Created by the S.C. Arts Commission in 1975, Southern Circuit takes independent filmmakers on a journey into communities across the South. Chosen by a panel of experts for the quality of their work, the filmmakers screen their recent films for local audiences. Produced without studio backing and struggling to secure a distributor, many of these films would never be seen on a screen in this area of the country without the film festival tour. In July 2006, the Southern Arts Federation adopted the Southern Circuit with the intent of fostering the next evolutionary stage of the program.