One of the most fascinating aspects of town planning is the phenomenon of ghost cities. Places which have been designed and created to be bustling metropolitan centres but which end up, due to political, economic or environmental factors, empty and largely abandoned. The most famous examples are in China, but you can find many others in Russia or America. It’s the latter which plays host to Sofie Benoot, Liesbeth de Ceulaer and Isabelle Tollenaere’s new documentary, Victoria.
You’ve probably never even heard of California City, even if you live in the state. Situated deep in the Mojave Desert, the half-completed settlement was intended to rival the likes of Los Angeles as a lively urban hub. However, today, it is sparsely populated by a ragtag bunch of waifs and strays. Lashay T. Warren swapped a tumultuous life in the city of angels for a fresh start amongst its crumbling edifices; working as part of a conservation group.
Victoria is a tale of life on the fringes. Of a group of people who traded in their former lives for a second chance. As Lashay patrols the crumbling streets, performing maintenance with his crew along the way, there’s an almost dreamlike reverie which envelops them. Performing the same tasks over and over again, without really making any headway. Set in an almost fantasy world, Victoria tells the story of a group of outsiders chasing forgotten dreams and a sense of meaning.
Victoria screens at Open City Documentary Festival between 9-12 September.