On March 5th, 2013, San Francisco's skyline was transformed by an amazing sight: 25,000 LED lights that, for perhaps the first time save the 1989 earthquake, caused people to consider the Bay Bridge instead of her iconic sister. How did this happen? Who was behind the eight million-dollar installation? How in the world did they pull it off?
Wonderfully done movie by a first time film maker working with little money, but you won't know it from the finished product. The project being documented is huge in scale, which makes the movie impressive for making it seem to human scale. The interviews, especially Leo Villarel (the artist) are insightful and help make sense of this huge undertaking.
It is hard to believe this was essentially shot by one person, not a crew. And the music highlights the supports both the cinematography as well as the story.
Based on blind faith, first-time documentary filmmaker Jeremy Ambers followed the uncertain path from conception to execution of the Bay Lights. At a height of 500 feet and a length of 1.8 miles, it represents the world's largest LED light sculpture installed on the much-maligned western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. He really had no idea if the project would reach a successful conclusion, and that ambivalence is captured in the compelling narrative he follows for just 71 minutes. Ambers wisely focuses on three key figures, the first being Ben Davis, the founder of the Illuminate the Arts program and the guiding light, if you will, of the entire project. It was his dream to have a public art display that would allow some of the spotlight normally reserved for the more photogenic Golden Gate Bridge. This dream evolves into a vision created by the film's second pivotal figure, expressionist artist Leo Villareal, whose renown comes from elaborate lighting displays.
Many of his exhibits are shown here with the most famous being the stunning concourse walkway between the West and East buildings of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. The third figure is Amy Critchett, a no-nonsense creative producer instrumental in the budgeting and fundraising efforts to bring the project to life. While a number of engineers were obviously critical to the effort and are included in brief snippets, it is the combined effort of this charismatic trio who manages to elicit support from a wide-ranging and often hesitant group of stakeholders from government agencies to private anonymous donors . Interspersed between the interviews is some remarkable footage of the installation including setbacks caused by either the elements or the experimental nature of the whole venture. Ambers shows a true gift for editing as the momentum never flags, and the evocative score by Kevin T. Doyle lends a nicely surreal touch to the story. I look forward to Ambers' next feature film.
This documentary shows how a large local-government-funded public art project was made. The pacing is good, thanks to Jeremy Ambers, the director.
To me the hero of the project was Ben Davis. He thought up the idea to do something artistic for the Bay Bridge and he even put up home equity as collateral to help fund the project. The various interview segments with Ben Davis show him to be at ease discussing the project and quite modest about his role.
The artist is Leo Villareal. In the project's beginning, he seemed quite unsure, using uptalk and repeating mantras like, "I'm incredibly grateful," and "the scale" of the project. Of course, that's the point - this bridge is huge, uncelebrated prior to the project, and the scale is difficult to fully appreciate just by watching the film. But Villareal gained a sense of confidence speaking about the project toward the end of the film, and that too was good to see.
Amy Critchett was the project manager and clearly did an outstanding job. Her interviews didn't exactly grip me but her work and commitment were evident.
Not much information was given about the funders of the art project. I would have liked some interviews of them, yet it's possible they all preferred to be anonymous. Ben Davis appeared to me to be the one responsible for fund raising, although I may be wrong as this kind of thing normally requires lots of people dedicated to fund raising.
My favorite parts were not the art itself, perhaps because it's the type of art that one has to see in person. I most enjoyed the work of the technicians who worked on the bridge directly at night. There was something wild about that to me, and it was the work at such heights at night that made me feel the immense scale of this human endeavor.
I think this film will inspire other local governments and other community leaders to embark on more large scale art projects. Jeremy Ambers' role in this inspiration represented to me a type of pure virtue that would make him eligible for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, or some significant citizenship award.
A well thought out documentary from first time director Jeremy Ambers. This wonderfully shot film with little to no budget really captures the scale and depth which is now know as the Bay Bridge Lights project. Impossible Light is truly an inspirational film for any public arts enthusiast looking to gain knowledge on how to make the impossible, possible in today's large scale public art exhibits. The interviews by Leo Villareal, Amy Critchett and Ben Davis are very detailed making sense of this enormous project. Great Work!!!
This film is an all around incredible film. As someone who appreciates art, this journey to do the seemingly impossible by using a bridge as part of an LED light sculpture is truly fascinating to watch. The overall message is great: always push yourself towards greatness. Really inspiring film, great for anyone! Will definitely recommend to family, friends, and all the art lovers of the world!