California Landslide

The captivating true story of a devoted dog and two women who develop an unbreakable bond as they are forced to flee their home in Big Sur due to the largest coastal landslide in California’s history. Told through the heartwarming perspective of Anika, a Vizsla, who encourages humans to love and protect the planet we call home. Filmed along the rugged Big Sur coastline, the iconic landscape serves as a breathtaking backdrop to this educational yet playful cinematic work of art. This timely documentary reveals a deeply personal investigation of a global issue — the social and environmental impact of natural disasters on nature, animals, and humans.

  • Dana Richardson
    Director
    Goshen, Back to Eden
  • Sarah Zentz
    Director
    Goshen, Back to Eden
  • Dana Richardson
    Producer
    Goshen, Back to Eden
  • Sarah Zentz
    Producer
    Goshen, Back to Eden
  • Dana Richardson
    Writer
  • Sarah Zentz
    Writer
  • Anika
    Key Cast
    "As Herself"
  • Sarah Zentz
    Key Cast
    "As Herself"
  • Dana Richardson
    Key Cast
    "As Herself"
  • Allyson Newman
    Music
    Kusama: Infinity, Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    18 minutes 32 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    April 22, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    20,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    4K
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Sonoma International Film Festival
    Sonoma, CA
    United States
    March 26, 2022
    Official Selection
  • San Luis Obispo International Film Festival
    San Luis Obispo
    United States
    March 14, 2021
    North American Premiere
    Official Selection
Distribution Information
  • Amazon Prime
    Distributor
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: Video on Demand
Director Biography - Dana Richardson, Sarah Zentz

Dana Richardson and Sarah Zentz are the owners of Dana & Sarah Films, a documentary film production company based in California.

Dana Richardson (Director, Cinematographer, Editor) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and producer based in California. She graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA degree in Film in 2008. Additionally, she studied internationally at the Prague Art Institute and the University of Barcelona.

Sarah Zentz (Director, Sound Mixer, Editor) is a California-based documentary filmmaker, director, and producer. She received her BFA degree in New Media from Millersville University in 2008. Sarah manages marketing, distribution, web design, and graphic design for Dana & Sarah Films.

Dana & Sarah are the producers and directors of CALIFORNIA LANDSLIDE (2020), GOSHEN (2015), BACK TO EDEN (2011), and RADICAL JEWELRY MAKEOVER (2009). Their documentaries have broadcast worldwide airing on PBS, FNX, CNL, Amazing Discoveries TV, and are distributed on several VOD platforms including Telus, FMTV, Steep Edge, Eco Streamz, Vimeo, and Amazon Prime Video.

Dana & Sarah won an Award of Merit for Women Filmmakers from the IndieFEST Film Awards, Accolade Global Film Competition, and Prestige Film Awards. Her films have won Best Documentary Feature in the International Independent Film Awards, Mexico International Film Festival, Mountain Film Festival, and Best Locally Produced Work in the Santa Cruz Film Festival. The duos films have screened at the top film festivals and prestigious museums including the Museum of Arts and Design, New York. Their documentary films are part of the permanent film collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, New York. Their films have been selected for numerous university libraries including the University of California San Francisco, University of Arizona, Harvard University and several educational film catalogs including Artfilms, British Universities Film & Media, and First Nations Films.

Dana & Sarah are members of the International Documentary Association. They currently live and work in California.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

FILM SUMMARY

In 2017, the largest coastal landslide in California’s history collapsed on the Central Coast of California. During a series of extreme weather conditions, Big Sur residents Dana Richardson and Sarah Zentz and their beloved dog, Anika, were forced to flee their home. CALIFORNIA LANDSLIDE is a historical documentary revealing a deeply personal investigation of a global issue — the social and environmental impact of natural disasters on nature, animals, and humans.

DIRECTOR STATEMENT

For six years, we called Big Sur our home. Little did we know, we would become the closest residents to the massive landslide. We began filming California wildfires in the summer, followed by intense rainstorms in the winter, which triggered the mass earth movement in the spring of 2017. Our unique access enabled us to document the active landslide zone behind the closed California State Route 1. The earth around our house showed significant movement, disrupting the roads that we relied on to escape, and ultimately trapped us behind rock slides for weeks. The highway at Mud Creek in Big Sur was buried in an already significant sized mudslide by the time we were forced to evacuate. We were fortunate to have made it out before the catastrophic collapse. The landslide covered a quarter of a mile of the highway with thirteen acres of dirt and debris. The highway was rebuilt directly on top of the landslide. Over a year later, when the highway finally reopened, we returned to the site of the landslide to witness the transformed landscape. After being displaced by a natural disaster, we decided it was time to relocate from Big Sur and begin rebuilding our lives.

As the impacts of climate change increase around the world, millions of people and animals will be displaced every year in the next two decades unless humans act now. Our goal of this documentary is to raise awareness about global warming. According to a study by Cambridge University, the incidence of landslides is expected to increase in frequency over the remainder of the 21st century. Globally, landslides and other ground failures take a tremendous human and economic toll, and with climate change bringing a sharp rise in intense precipitation events in many countries, the threat of bigger, more frequent landslides is looming. Further research on the impacts of landslides needs to be undertaken. We hope our film inspires ideas, questions, and actions that are needed now.

ARTISTIC VISION

The film is told from the unique anthropomorphic point of view of the director's dog. The director's decision was made in hope of offering an endearing, heartwarming, and visually engaging perspective of her emotionally challenging experience. The dog’s simplified tone renders complex issues of climate change more approachable to a wide audience.

Cinematically, the opening sequence is big and grand showing the iconic landscape of the scenic Big Sur coastline. The opening scene of the subjects within this environment are intimate, playful, and organic. This invites the viewer to experience the raw, powerful, and inspiring Central Coast of California in a close and personal way. Filmed over several years in Big Sur, CALIFORNIA LANDSLIDE unfolds as a series of interconnected vignettes, ranging from aerial footage of the devastation to extremely personal moments. As the filmmakers evacuate by foot, traversing massive cracks on steep mountainsides, dodging fallen boulders, and passing over roadways slowly collapsing into the Pacific Ocean, the rugged Big Sur landscape serves as a complementary backdrop to the evacuee’s emotions, fears, and dreams.

Stylistically, the cinematographer and director, Dana Richardson, was inspired by Agnès Varda and her cinematic language of reflexive documentary storytelling. The film subtly informs the audience that the camera person is intentionally present through glimpses of her face, hands, and feet caught on screen. The camera movement emotionally informs the audience through handheld techniques, sometimes severe camera angles and playful digressions. The historical landslide in California is told through the integration of non-traditional mediums utilizing the director’s personal home video footage combined with archival stock footage, smartphone videos, aerial helicopter footage, and satellite still images. Shots that break the traditional 180° axis of camera movement play with the expectations of the audience. The result is a visually stimulating juxtaposition of experiencing the anxiety of being inside an active disaster zone interrupted by moments of relief during wide, aerial landscape shots. Visually, the film creates a touching portrait that is part autobiographical, part social critique, part travelogue, which transpires into a powerful celebration of nature, animal, and human resilience.