Last Stand: The Struggle for the Ballona Wetlands (1998)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Run Time - 60 min.  |   Countries - United States   |  
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Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks SKG once planned to build a vast studio complex as part of Playa Capital's "Playa Vista" development near the suburbanized Pacific coast, but backed away in the face of criticism. Hosted by actor Edward Asner, this documentary chronicles the controversial development slated for the environmentally sensitive Ballona Wetlands, an area which comprises one of Southern California's last wetland ecosystems. As the largest remaining open space in Los Angeles, it is also a feeding and nesting habitat for over 185 species of birds. The documentary itself has become part of the controversy because it plainly argues against the development, a stand some groups dismiss as manipulative propaganda. Nevertheless, the film has been widely praised for its straightforward presentation of the issues and facts. The program also shows the history of the degradation of the wetlands, including shots of oil wells and hangars owned by Howard Hughes. Also examined are the responses of some of the nearly 90 groups opposed to the project, including the Sierra Club. In reaction to criticism regarding the loss of open space, the developers claim they have set aside open areas, which journalist Bill Gibson reveals is simply the concrete Ballona Channel. The documentary provides a developer document to back up Gibson's charge. Other highlights include an interview with a fisheries expert, commentary from the scientist Dr. Joy Zedler, who authored Wetlands Restoration, and clips from Tom Brokaw's NBC Nightly News story on the issue. The music soundtrack features Joni Mitchell, Kenny Loggins, and Joe Walsh. This documentary has won a number of awards, including the prestigious Cine Golden Eagle.

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Keywords

controversy, environmentalism, struggle, wetland