Valley residents’ documentary premieres on GrassRoots TV | AspenTimes.com

Valley residents’ documentary premieres on GrassRoots TV

Stewart Oksenhorn

The actual story of California’s lighthouse at Point Arena is a fascinating one. The lighthouse, originally built in 1870 135 miles north of San Francisco and rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake, stands 155 feet tall, the tallest such structure on the California coast.The original featured a lens, built by French inventor Agustine Fresnel, with more than 300 prisms that created a 20-mile beam of light. After being restored, the lens, a marvel of artistry and science, contained 600-plus prisms. The lighthouse required massive manpower and fuel to accomplish its mission of helping boats navigate Point Arena’s dense fog and keep from crashing on the sharp rocks just offshore.But Corby Anderson found a better reason to make “The Light at Point Arena,” a 44-minute documentary about the lighthouse. What fascinated Anderson was the way the lighthouse served as a beacon for the Point Arena community. When the Coast Guard shut down lighthouse operations in 1972, he said, “it was like telling Aspenites they couldn’t go to the Maroon Bells.””The Light at Point Arena,” directed by Anderson and written by Ben Gagnon, and co-produced by the two valley residents, has its local premiere on GrassRoots TV at 7 p.m. Monday. It will show throughout the week on GrassRoots, where Anderson is the station manager. The film will also be shown on two PBS outlets in California. “The Light at Point Arena” had its world premiere at the Arena Theatre in December. Anderson said the four screenings drew hundreds of viewers over the weekend. The 500-or-so residents of Point Arena are accustomed to rallying around their lighthouse.After the Coast Guard deactivated the lighthouse, residents formed Point Arena Lighthouse Keepers Inc. to preserve the icon. In 1984, the lighthouse was reopened to the public for tours; a museum and guesthouses have been added. The current aim is to raise funds to restore the Fresnel lens, a task Anderson predicts will be achieved in a year or so.Through interviews and historical and contemporary film clips, “The Light at Point Arena” thoroughly details the 135-year story of the lighthouse. The film, narrated by Snowmass Villager Jerry Fleischer, gives equal attention to folksy anecdotes like the crumbling of the original lens in the 1906 quake, various shipwrecks and the effort to preserve the tower.”Once I got to know the local people, and dug into the back story, I saw the tenderness everyone holds for each other and the loyalty of living there,” said Anderson, who made four trips to California. “I draw a lot of parallels to the core values, the loyalty, that people have in this valley.”Anderson was raised in San Francisco from the age of 8 and was taken up and down the coast by his parents. He is a native of North Carolina and was familiar with the strong lighthouse culture there. But he came to the Point Arena project quite accidentally. He wanted to make a documentary, and went to Google to search for topics.”I typed in ‘California coast,’ something like that. And somehow, the Point Arena lighthouse was the first thing than came up on my screen,” said Anderson, whose first visit to the lighthouse came during filming of the documentary.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com

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