Bombay Beach 2011 ★★

Bombay Beach is a documentary set in a derelict community in California, a place where once there was a promise of a great life but is now little more than a rundown shell where only the poorest remain. The film follows three separate stories with filmmaker, Alma Har’el, trying to clumsily and often unsuccessfully link them together.

There is a lot of potential here; I’m always fascinated by these types of time-capsule documentaries that merely capture a period of time in a community. The problem is that Bombay Beach is heavy on the style. It is an often striking film, far more so than a typical documentary, but it also makes the film seem false and artificial as if it was entirely staged for Har’el’s own needs. The director’s hand is a constant presence and it ruins the authenticity and legitimacy of the content. Despite the short runtime it still feels long with the film failing to get under the skin of the people that live there.

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