Bombay Beach

Bombay Beach

A scene from BOMBAY BEACH a film by Alma Har'el. Picture courtesy Focus World. All rights reserved.

Bombay Beach

Original Music by:
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* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

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Bombay Beach (2011)

Opened: 10/14/2011 Limited

IFC Center10/14/2011 - 10/20/20117 days
Sunset 5/LA10/21/2011 - 10/27/20117 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home

Genre: Documentary

Rated: Unrated


The desolate and surreal Salton Sea in California stands as a formidable metaphor for the broken American dream. The largest lake in all of California, was created when the Colorado River flooded the windswept desert, carrying the river's entire volume into the Salton Sink over a period of approximately two years. A dam was built and water filled the basin-- the Salton Sea was born.

At the height of American optimism in the 1950s the Salton Sea fueled a recreation boom, and the inland desert sea became an inviting vacation destination, catering to waterskiers, boaters, and fishermen. Billed as "Palm Springs-by-the-Sea," and "the new Riviera," the lake enjoyed immense popularity, especially among the rich and famous, as movie stars and recording artists flocked to the area. From Dean Martin to Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, and the Beach Boys, the lake became a speedboat playground. Restaurants, shops, and nightclubs sprang up along the sea, and on the eastern shore a new little resort town came to life under the name BOMBAY BEACH.

Today, after a series of floods, the lack of water outflow, and the high salinity that has killed off the fish, Bombay Beach is little more than a shanty ghost town in the poorest county of California. The broken-down signs from the '50s and the sunken, ghostly Marina are still there to remind the community of the dream that once was the Salton Sea--and is now a pool of dead fish in the middle of the desert.

About the Film

The film BOMBAY BEACH is a documentary-record-cum-drama with dreamlike musical dance numbers, creating a portrait of this small community living on the fringes of the lost American dream, and the dreamers who populate its surreal and poetic landscape.

Film director Alma Har'el tells the story of three protagonists:

  • The trials of Benny Parrish, a young boy diagnosed with bipolar disorder whose troubled soul and vivid imagination create both suffering and joy for him and his complex and loving family.
  • The story of CeeJay Thompson, a black teenager and aspiring football player who has taken refuge in Bombay Beach hoping to avoid the same fate of his cousin who was murdered by a gang of youths in Los Angeles.
  • And that of Red, an ancient survivor, once an oil field worker, living on the fumes of whiskey, cigarettes and an irrepressible love of life.

Together these portraits form a triptych of manhood in its various ages and guises, in a gently hypnotic style that questions whether they are a product of their world or if their world is a construct of their own imaginations.

The narratives are interspersed with CHOREOGRAPHED SEQUENCES in which the protagonists DANCE -- to music specially composed for the film by ZACH CONDON of the band BEIRUT, and songs by BOB DYLAN.

For all that though, it is the camera that sets this film apart. Quite simply, the California of Bombay Beach is as fantastic and surreal a place as a dream. Each image appears to have been folded up and sent through the wash in somebody's back pocket. Light collects in folds and pours through creases, revealing an earth that is worn, soft and surprising.