Gaviota: The End of Southern California (Shaw Leonard, 2017): USA

Reviewed by Rachel Gately. Viewed at the Lobero Theater during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2017.

Driven by an inner yearning to give back to the coast where they played as boys and young men, Shaw Leonard and Tamlorn Chase explored and documented landscapes, seascapes and other wild aspects of the stunning Gaviota Coast. Clearly a labor of love among their assembled group of passionate environmentalists, the result is a splendorous moving picture documentation of the natural world.

Opening with images of the urban sprawl of the coastal community of Los Angeles, Leonard demonstrates that there is little natural habitat left to explore. Then, with expansive drone shots and spectacular close-ups of wild animals, we dive into the ecstatic unknown elemental nature specific to the local region. This film blesses the viewer with a rare glimpse into the true heart of Mother Earth, naked and free; as yet unencumbered by the weight of ever-encroaching development. For that alone, Leonard’s Gaviota is a rare gem, a gift for anyone who appreciates a walk in the living natural world and an inspiration for anyone interested in engaging in the ongoing effort to save it.

Southern California, with its Mediterranean-like climate, is home or destination for many outdoor adventurers. According to the five regions in the world with this climate “are located approximately 30 degrees to 40 degrees south or north of the equator and are typically at the west sides of the continents.” At 34.5 degrees north of the equator, the northern Santa Barbara County coast is rich with opportunities to interact with the natural world in unique ways. Surfing, kayaking, hiking, biking, diving, boating, and many other activities await the eager outdoor enthusiast. Unfortunately developers, oil companies, and other corporate interests have deep pockets and ample opportunities to build upon or drill into land in key coastal areas. As a result, citizens have banded together to engage in comprehensive planning and protection against their actions.

Along with other noble organizations, 20 year-old Gaviota Coast Conservancy has held prospective developers at bay by using a variety of legal tactics to oppose proposed housing developments and other efforts of industrialization. The non-profit advocacy group’s mission “to protect, restore and enhance the unique natural, scenic, agricultural, recreational, educational and cultural resources of the open space lands of the Gaviota Coast for the benefit of current and future generations” is a tall order. They are up for the task, especially with the help of this beautiful visual substantiation.

This film sets the stage for successful negotiation on issues like gaining public beach access and enhancing existing trails. In December of 2016,  the stretch of Highway 101 along Gaviota was designated a State Scenic Highway. Gaviota Coast Conservancy’s efforts were successful. This film will certainly contribute to the environmental efforts already in place and add to the argument that the natural world of the Gaviota Coast is something worth protecting. For more information and to make a donation to Gaviota Coast Conservancy please visit their website at







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