‘The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz’ review

Walking through Santa Monica College’s Airport Campus - a lonely couple of buildings on the side of Santa Monica's local airport - one would not have expected to see the festival that took place on Saturday, May 12. SMC art professor Franklyn Phillips, in collaboration with documentary filmmaker Scott Petersen, organized the screening of Petersen's most recent documentary, ‘The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz.’

The documentary presented the story of unlikely events that led a simple and ordinary man, Spencer MacCallums to meet an extraordinary talent, Juan Quezada . ‘The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz’ was a journey of how one man, through his appreciation of art and craftsmanship, and another man’s love of art, lead an artistic movement that saved a historic town from becoming a ghost town like so many other towns along the Mexican frontier.

A remote town in the middle of nowhere, one had to wonder why a filmmaker known for having worked on movies like ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and documentaries for the British Broadcasting Corporation, would choose to do a documentary about this story, and pay for it out of his own pocket?

"The idea that really appealed to me is that one or two people can radically change an entire area and create an economy where one didn't exist before," Scott explained.

‘The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz’ was a breath of fresh air, given the bad press associated with Mexico in recent decades. The film showed a part of Mexico rarely seen by those who have never experienced it first hand.

With the recent downturn in the United States’ economy, will interest and tourism continue in a time when art isn't generally in high demand?

Scott said, "Mata Ortiz’s pottery will be around for as long as people are inspired to make art in that area. The best artists will be able to sell to traders and collectors, and present their work at shows in the U.S. simply because the quality is so good."