Last night, the Echo Park Film Mobile screened “Reynar Banham Loves Los Angeles” on the grassy knoll in front of Watts Towers. The film was part of Echo Park Film Center’s summer series that screens classic films in cinematic locations across Los Angeles. I’ve seen Banham’s BBC documentary several times but wanted to see it with an audience…going to Watts Towers for the first time was an amazing added bonus.
I’ve lived in Los Angeles all my life (except the handful of years I didn’t), but have never visited Watts Towers. I’ve been to South Los Angeles many times (mostly to visit a then-boyfriend) but never made my way to the iconic towers. Watching the film next to Watts Towers, lit for the evening, was a powerful experience. As Banham waxed poetic about a 1972 Los Angeles, we heard the 2013 sounds of Watts — the regular hum of the nearby Blue Line, helicopters swarming overhead, thumping bass from passing cars, laughing teenagers walking by, and sirens in the distance. [This observation makes me wonder about the different soundscapes in LA’s neighborhoods…]
We must’ve been quite the site for the curious resident walking by that night — a group of 30 people, sitting on the grass, watching a British 1970s documentary screened on what resembles a modified ice cream truck. Anyone who showed interest was offered free popcorn. I did watch the film, but also couldn’t stop watching the light of popcorn maker in the dark. Perhaps this screening and audience seemed out of place to the local, but the popcorn maker made sense. The neighborhood teens may not have stayed for the film, but they appreciated the popcorn (though, mine could’ve used some salt. :))
So thank you Echo Park Film Center for giving me an excuse to explore this part of my hometown as well as giving me a new context for an old documentary.