California Dreams (2017) | Woche der Critik 2017

February 12th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Mike Ott; Cast: Cory Zacharia, Kevin Gilger, Carolan J. Pinto, Neil Harley, Patrick Ilaguno; USA 2017, 85 min.

Director/writer Mike Ott (Lake Los Angeles) explores a personal, not to say idiosyncratic, view of actors on the (often imagined) fringe of Hollywood – always just a step away from realising their dream in Tinsel Town. Having set up auditions in a small town in California, Ott interviews them at length and discovers a great deal of sadness, but also perseverance against the odds.

First up is Cory Zacharia. The two first met working on a student film and this is now their fourth collaboration together. Cory, like all the others, has to do a scene from his favourite Hollywood film; Ott hoping to find out what makes them tick. Cory is in his late twenties with severe learning difficulties and lives with his Mum in a housing project in Lancaster/Cal. Having grown up as Jehovah’s Witness, he has difficulties regarding his sexual orientation: his mother had him locked up twice in mental institutions, after she found out that he had sex with men. His oppressive home life is reason enough to dream himself away to Hollywood. Cory also has a fixation with Finland, particularly the women there, who he imagines are waiting for him, fulfilling his dream of absolute and perfect love. But first he has to find a way to go to Berlin, to star in a film produced by a certain Herr Henning, who phones often and is angry that Cory has not found a way to pay for a plane ticket.

Next is Carolan J. Pinta who grew up in a musical family and had a career in commercials and TV as a teenager, but now lives in her car. She dreams about writing a bestseller which would be made into a big Hollywood film, finally winning her an Oscar: her acceptance speech performance is honed to perfection. Carolan takes her eighty pound boxer dog Lady Jenna Theresa where ever she goes.

Kevin Gilger aka The Dog, has been a professional actor since his childhood. For the past nine years he is impersonating Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman. Chapman plays a sheriff, who is chasing Cory all over the place, the pair are very close to the spirit of the Mike Sennett silent comedies.

And finally, Patrick Ilaguno was born in the Philippines, after emigrating to the USA he studied film at Long Beach City College, College of the Canyons and Cal State University LA. He is working at the Six Flags Magic Mountains car park, but always visits festivals in the region. Still a virgin, he hopes that a career in films will make him more acceptable to women.

In the end, Cory finds a (staged) truly Hollywood-like ending, in slow motion and with a rapturous music score. As Ott put it: ”This is a film about the dream of making it in Hollywood. That contrast between who we really are as people, and who we want to be in the hallucination that is cinema, is something I find so inspiring and at the same time heart breaking”.

DoP Mike Gloulakis finds the right images for all stages of this journey: Slapstick, Western and Romance genre photography confronts the hard, documentary style of the real life story of the protagonists. Ott carefully avoids sentimentality and judgement – he simply tells it like it is. AS


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