Filmmakers Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer discovered the Salton Sea on a road trip, unaware of the beautiful tragedy of its history and future. Intrigued by the contrast of the barren desert with the large impromptu lake, the filmmakers began with a mini-DV cam and weekend trips to the sea.
Plagues & Pleasures embodies the illusory concept of the American dream, differentiating between what could have been and what actually is. Quickly setting a tone of irony and disillusionment, the sea's history begins in 1905 with the flooding of the Colorado River.
As a result, a lake was born from a desert basin; with a salinity level that kept water from evaporating, and assured land prospectors the sea was here to stay. Ushering in a seaside property boom and the hopes for an affluent resort town, a rash of hurricanes, floods and mass fish deaths quickly derailed the sea's bright future. The rest, as they say, is unknown history.
Situated in Los Angeles' backyard, the Salton Sea is dotted with heartwarming eccentrics that have sought refuge and found comfort in its shore cities. Some might call them outsiders, but these very real characters are presented in the film as quirky but intelligent nomads with a sense of community and solace.
Much like the sea itself, many of its residents have gone through tumultuous and alienating situations. The residents' testimonies and resigned pleas serve as the driving force behind the film's emotional impact, with John Water's slightly nasal but authoritative voice filling in gaps and offering historical structure and political circumstance.
Plagues & Pleasures is not the desperate plea of an environmentalist or an anarchist opinion of a failing government, but rather a chance for the sea's inhabitants to share their stories and remind California there is something east of Palm Springs.