Fabulously offbeat and refreshingly upbeat, this lovable film gets friendly with the natives of the Salton Sea, an inland ocean of massive fish kills, rotting resorts, and 120 degree nights located just minutes from urban Southern California. This award-winning film from directors Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer details the rise and fall of the Salton Sea, from its heyday as the “California Riviera” where boaters and Beach Boys mingled in paradise to its present state as a decaying, forgotten ecological disaster. From wonderland to wasteland, PLAGUES & PLEASURES ON THE SALTON SEA captures a place far more interesting than the shopping malls and parking lots of suburban America, a wacky world where a beer-swilling Hungarian Revolutionary, a geriatric nudist, and a religious zealot building a monument to God all find solace and community.
Crisply and hilariously narrated by oddball auteur John Waters, and featuring music by desert lounge rockers Friends of Dean Martinez, PLAGUES & PLEASURES ON THE SALTON SEA melds high camp with stark realism, offering both a sobering message about the consequences of tampering with nature and a heart-warming tale of individualism.
“Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea” a feature documentary about America’s little known Salton Sea. Tucked in the southeast corner of California there was a time when the area was known as the Riviera of the West – a premier vactation destination for the rich and famous. However, by the late 1990s it was considered one of America’s worst ecological disasters: a fetid, stagnant, salty lake, coughing up dead fish and birds by the thousands.
With each screening, the filmmakers and associated non-profits invited the audience to fill out postcards to entertainer turned politician – California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The tongue in cheek postcards encouraged him to delay the scheduled water transfers away from the Salton Sea and support the selection of a restoration option that embraced both environmental and economic concerns.
Through these efforts and the screening of the film to members various local and national political representatives, government policy towards the Salton Sea improved, with a focus on effort on restoration initiated and economic investment in the area increased.
The film has also quickly become a cult classic with the Salton Sea now seeing a rebound in tourism with those that see it as the ultimate alternative tourist destination with offbeat appeal.
Using the film as a screening tool with educators, libraries, and community groups, the filmmakers rose awareness of not only the challenges the Salton Sea was facing, but also put a spotlight on environmental and water issues facing many regions around the world.
Called a “One-of-a-kind documentary… A startlingly funny portrait of Gothic Americana.” by the Christian Science Monitor and “An interesting, disturbing, and humorous look at environmental disaster.” by the Berkeley Daily Planet, PLAGUES & PLEASURES ON THE SALTON SEA has screened at more than 200 festivals in twenty-five countries and has won 37 awards for Best Documentary along the way. One of the top-reviewed documentaries of 2006-2007, the film was rolled out to theaters across the world with bookings in over one hundred cities.