Living in the desert does strange things to people. Or at least, thats a theory burgeoning writer-director Mike Ott continues to explore in his films.
The latest is Lake Los Angeles,” which will be screened at the nations largest competitive multicultural film festival Urbanworld currently taking place in New York City.
I made two other films out in the desert, Ott told VOXXI. The actual Lake Los Angeles is in the desert where they made this resort town for people to move to. They built this fake lake and gave these streets these fancy names. Then the lake dried up and everyone moved out leaving dilapidated structures with lost souls and heroin addicts.
I was always fascinated with how it was like the reflection of the failed American dream, I guess. And I was interested in the landscape out here.
Lake Los Angeles, follows the story of a middle-aged Cuban immigrant named Francisco, who works at a holding house.
He meets a 10-year-old Mexican girl named Cecilia, who has no family. Shes in constant danger but resourceful. She turns the desert into a fantastical world creating characters and stories to make the hopelessness of the empty landscape a survivable habitat.
Through navigating what was supposed to be both Francisco and Cecilia’s promise land, they find a common hope in each other while journeying through the hauntingly beautiful and desolate world that is Lake Los Angeles.
Ott said what intrigued him about the real Lake Los Angeles, which is located 45 minutes north of Los Angeles, is how the area is divided between a large Hispanic community and also a white population that ranges from retirees to meth heads.
There is something really haunting about the place in the film, Ott said. You get this loneliness. You get these people who are trying to strive for something that are kind of lost in the middle of nowhere. They are so close to a major city but you might as well be on Mars.
Still, its hard not to draw a comparison between the storylines in Lake Los Angeles and the reality that every day people specifically Latinos are fighting brutal heat and barren land to find a better life.
That wasnt my main interest, Ott said. I think all of that stuff inherently comes with it of course, but my interest was like telling a story of a little girl wanting to meet her dad and being separated from her family. The initial thing was telling the story of these two lost souls. Although I knew the political implications that would come with everything.
As a storyteller, Ott hopes Lake Los Angeles is more than entertaining. In fact, hes confident the film acts as a catalyst to broaden opinions and even open minds.
A lot of times when I make movies, I think about conversations I would have with my grandmother, who is an old racist lady, Ott said. Theres a lot of things I cant explain to her in person to try to prove my point of view. So I always think cinema is a great way to get a point across and to get someone to think about a different perspective.
Maybe someone who has a kind of callow idea of immigrants, hopefully they would be able to appreciate why someone was doing something and what the stakes are for them. Maybe theyll see the world a little bit differently or from someone elses perspective.
“Lake Los Angeles,” is scheduled for screening Saturday Sept. 20th at the Urbanworld film festival.
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