The Capitol acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. We respectfully acknowledge their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. We also acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.
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Presented as part of the Past Futures film program

Bombay Beach (2011)

Alma Har'el

Israeli filmmaker Alma Har’el’s genre-bending documentary offers a very different kind of futurism to this season.

The film follows three men of varying ages try to figure out if they are a product of their world or if their world is a construct of their own imaginations. It also presents a vision of a dried-up-utopiaBombay Beach was once the destination of choice for the rich and famous; a glitzy holiday playground on shores of the massive Salton Sea lake in southern California. That was way-back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Since then, the lake has become ever more saline and the once-plush resort has fallen on times equally as hard as those of its present occupants. Har’el’s gentle, tender lens reframes what could be viewed as a modern dystopia, into a uniquely utopian skew on the beauty and importance of true community – and won Best Feature Documentary at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. 

Past Futures curatorial notes —
What futures were past filmmakers imagining for our present world? And did those sci fi prophesies come true? All dreamers and designers start from a place of deep imagining.

In Past Futures we look at imagined dystopias and utopias that made their way into the collective conscious – into the design of now – and consider what might be in the making to come.

In our selection of sci fi visionaries, some classic, others populist, and still others perhaps idiosyncratic, we look away from the stuff of shiny space wars, and towards a survey of the social, political, technological, environmental, interpersonal and existential prophesies dreamed onto the cinema screen over the last century. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, these films offer “an arsenal of images for imagining the world.”

What worlds were filmmakers of the past envisioning for today? Which of these past-futures have materialised in shades of our lived realities? What do modern utopias and dystopias look like? Can cinema help us collectively design a world we want to see?

In curating this series my co-curator, Michelle Carey, and I considered the future worlds that filmmakers were envisioning in the past. In our selection you’ll find distinct visions from pasts that vary in length from way back to cinema’s silent beginnings, to just a moment or two ago.

The curated titles awakened a curiosity in us by way of each film’s aesthetic and philosophical design, some quixotic and wildly ambitious, others comparatively domestic while still suggesting a collective turn in consciousness or new ways of seeing and being. Our present is very much felt and reflected in these past futures.

What future visions are we projecting on screen, now?

Ghita Loebenstein
Creative Producer, The Capitol

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Presented by The Capitol as part of Melbourne Design Week 2021, an initiative of the Victorian Government in collaboration with the NGV.





80 minutes




Alma Har’el


Documentary, Drama, Musical


English, Esperanto


Not Reated


Roco Films

Cedric Thompson

Producers: Alma Har’el, Boaz Yakin,
Rafael Marmor
Sound: Dror Mohar
Editing: Joe Lindquist
Music: Zach Condon, Bob Dylan