SALTON SEA — The film documentary Miracle in the Desert: Rise and Fall of the Salton Sea is being released on-demand digitally and Blu-Ray/DVD Tuesday, September 22, on various digital formats and for physical purchase on Amazon.com.
Greg Bassenian, an award-winning director and founder/executive producer of production post house Aris, spoke about the last five years he has spent investigating, filming, and documenting the unfolding environmental disaster of the Imperial and Coachella valleys’ Salton Sea, according to a press release on the film.
Miracle in the Desert: Rise and Fall of the Salton Sea documentary not only takes an in-depth dive into the history of the Imperial Valley and the Salton Sea — highlighting the glory days when the Sea was frequented by Hollywood stars in the 1950s and ‘60s — but the film also highlights other issues surrounding the Sea in order to “understand the potential health impacts, raise awareness, and hopefully get people involved so that they understand that they have a voice and they can use their voice to get something done,” he said.
“(Its) a film that really tries to tell the full story of the Salton Sea, to really give a voice to not just the people around the sea but to the people in the Imperial and Coachella valleys who might be the most heavily impacted (by) the environmental issues that are starting to come about because the sea is drying up,” Bassenian said.
Bassenian, an USC and Boston College graduate who grew up in southern California, said passing by the Sea piqued his curiosity, later starting his journey to creating the 78-minute documentary.
“I had never seen it, I didn't know very much about it and like a lot of people I was just curious,” he said.
“I think that was the biggest thing, to me, was it's 350 square miles and there weren't any boats on the water, any people on the shore, (and) the ruins everywhere that everybody's seen and I kind of wanted to find out what happened,” he said. “I just found it very intriguing and kind of shocking that there was this big lake, and nobody was there.”
Bassenian said his film differs from other documentaries in that it takes a deeper dive into the history of the Salton Sea and the Imperial Valley.
“What inspired us was a lot of the other (Salton Sea documentaries) often will talk about a somewhat negative view of the area and we didn't necessarily want to do that,” he said. “We wanted to give a different take on the people, the Sea, and the ecology and the beauty of it.”
“I think the general opinion from the outside is ‘Oh, the Salton Sea is this poisonous place where you can't touch the water and everything's dead and all this stuff’ and a lot of that's very false, so a lot of it was myth-busting,” he said.
Bassenian said the documentary also highlights the issues surrounding the Salton Sea which have festered over time, such as environmental issues, resulting respiratory health issues for locals, the State’s slow-trickling funding, lack of representation in the State, inaction in solving the problem, and possible solutions for the problem.
“Prior to 2018, IID was putting mitigation water into the Sea directly to keep the Sea level relatively stable or not shrink as fast; that's not happening anymore,” Bassenian said. “So, the problem is going to get worse much faster and you're going start to see much larger areas of the shoreline exposed.”
“Hopefully people can watch (the film) to not only understand the history of the Imperial Valley, but also just understand the potential health impacts, raise awareness, and hopefully get people involved so that they understand that they have a voice and they can use their voice to get something done,” Bassenian said.
The film won Best Documentary at the Borrego Springs Film Festival in January, was nominated in three different categories at the JellyFest festival in Los Angeles, and has been screened in at least six other film festivals in California, according to Bassenian.
The documentary film Miracle in the Desert: Rise and Fall of the Salton Sea will be released digitally on iTunes and Google Play and for rent on-demand on platforms such as Amazon Prime Video, VUDU, YouTube, Microsoft, and VIMEO.
Bassenian said the film will also be available for rent on some cable platforms such as Spectrum, Dish Network, Verizon, Cox, and others thanks to the film’s distributor, Gravitas Ventures. To buy a physical DVD or Blu-Ray copy of the film, search for the film’s title on Amazon.com
The trailer for the documentary can be found on Vimeo.