At the time of this writing, summer is coming to a close. People are heading into work and into school, back with vacation tales from Vegas, Hawaii, Palm Springs and wherever else people like to sun their buns. But you don’t ever hear about the Salton Sea, do ya? At least not for a good 40 years now. And it’s because, unfortunately, the plagues outweigh the pleasures at the Salton Sea. Filmmakers Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer let Salton residents break it down in this charming, yet sad documentary.
Due to massive flooding at the Colorado River in the early 1900s, California was born a gigantic lake in the middle of the desert, right next to Palm Springs. This lake was dubbed the Salton Sea and it remains the largest body of water in the state. If you’re a complete ignorant nimrod like myself, you could be living in California and not really know much about this act of nature that many called a miracle. This documentary stands as a refreshing, eye-opening experience. By the 60s, Salton City was a major resort town, rivaling Palm Springs, where fat cats came to water ski, lay out by the lake, fish and party. But the miracle soon turned to disaster as flooding, increasing salinity of the water and pollution washed the vacationers away and left behind a community of eccentrics who refuse to move from their homes despite the barren, scorching conditions of their little town that reeks of dying fish and other interesting odors that many equate to sewage. In fact, the Salton Sea would probably be just that, a sewer, if these locals weren’t around to barely keep it somewgat alive.
Metzler and Springer let the locals, people who would vacation in Tromaville, speak for themselves and their town, giving way to plenty of conflicting stories. There’s still a mystery about whether the over abundance of fish in their Sea is safe to eat. And then there’s the issue of racism and what is it about that Hungarian guy who likes to hang his a*s out at people? Well, he may not be Hungarian at all, you know. He just may be Russian. Everyone here is allowed to tell their own tales of plagues and pleasures. And no matter how these tales may differ in opinion, there’s one fact that remains the same – they love their home and they want to see it rejuvenated. Too bad that the issue of money has kept the powers that be from doing anything about saving the Sea which gets filthier and stinkier every day. Some think they may never see that day that their Sea is saved, while others speculate that it’s only a matter of time until Palm Springs officials realize that the pollution of the Salton Sea is a threat to their city that something will be done. It’s only this matter of time that will tell.
People who like to plan their vacations a year or so in advance sometimes like ordering videotapes that basically sell you a package vacation, whether it be a cruise, a jungle expedition or a week at Disney World in Florida. “Plagues & Pleasures” is kinda like one of those travel videos, except it’s offering you a vacation like you’ve never had before and it’s not loaded with bullshit. As bad as the conditions look and sound, it’s still heaven on Earth for many of the people that live there. This could be your heaven on Earth, too.