(director: Alma Har’el; cinematographer: Alma Har’el; editors: Joe Lindquist/Alma Har’el; music: Zach Condon; cast:¬†Benny Parrish, Pamela Parrish, Mike Parrish, Dorran “Red” Forgy, CeeJay Thompson); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Alma Har’el, Boaz Yakin; Focus World; 2011)

“A depressing slice of life docudrama that’s sensitively helmed.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A depressing slice of life docudrama that’s sensitively helmed by the Israeli-born and LA -based music-video filmmaker Alma Har’el (“Death in Love”/LoveTrue). She highlights three disenfranchised misfit residents who live in poverty and without hope at one of the country’s poorest towns, with a population of 295, that’s called Bombay Beach. It’s located along the coast of the Salton Sea, in the California desert. In 1905 the Colorado River erupted and breached its dike to accidentally form this man-made inland lake. In the 1950s and 1960s an attempt by the real estate developers to make it a tourist spot was attempted but failed, as things dried up and it now looks like a disaster area with no hospitals or gas stations.

The film’s main focus is on the Parrish family’s bipolar adolescent son Benny and his battle with learning to live with his meds to prevent his violent actions in school. Next it explores the personal struggle of the crusty, bigoted old-timer called Red. He survives by selling cigarettes he bought on the cheap at a nearby Indian trading post. The final subject highlighted is a bland black teen high school football star, CeeJay Thompson. He relocated 173¬† miles from the slums of South Central, LA, to live here with his separated father to escape the area’s violence after his cousin was shot by a gang. He’s involved in an interracial romance, and hopes to play football in college.

The lively tunes of Beirut and the haunting home spun tunes of Bob Dylan bring life to a few sequences in need of an uplift, Dylan’s tunes especially have a feel for what’s going down and add quality to a film whose story never seems as profound as I think the director thinks it is.

The non-traditional docudrama received top prize at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Pamela Parrish and her son, Benny, in “Bombay Beach,” about a short-lived paradise that sprang up by the Salton Sea.

REVIEWED ON 12/30/2016       GRADE: B-