California Company Town | Chicago Reader

California Company Town

From 2003 to 2008, Lee Anne Schmitt toured the Golden State to document nearly two dozen communities that once thrived but have since shrunk or been abandoned because of depleted resources, corporate decisions, or government policy. The oil town of McKittrick has been depopulated by automation; Calico, a former mining site, has become a theme park run by Knotts Berry Farm; and in Buttonwillow, a cotton production center, the highway rest stop is bigger than the downtown area. Schmitt lets her stationary camera linger on vistas that are often still beautiful despite the ravages of civilization, while her deadpan narration drips with irony. Firmly aligned with the working class, she contrasts the towns' current condition with old gung-ho industrial films, propaganda newsreels, and radio broadcasts, and concludes with wealthy Silicon Valley, for which no words are necessary. 76 min.


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