Playing the Malibu song

Malibu Song will be screened at the Goethe Institute Los Angeles on Oct. 30.

On Oct. 30, the Austrian Consulate General will be presenting the Lower Topanga Canyon documentary ‘Malibu Song’ by Natalie Lettner and Werner Hanak as the opening film of their documentary film program ‘Made in Austria-Building Futures, Past and Present.’

Lower Topanga, which includes the first three miles of Topanga Canyon, was home to a colorful artists community with strong hippie roots, standing at the old entrance to Malibu. In 2001, State Parks made a controversial decision to buy Lower Topanga and relocate its more than 100 residents. In 2002, filmmakers Natalie Lettner and Werner Hanak, who had been enchanted by Lower Topanga on previous visits, began filming the residents and their struggle to stay in their beachside paradise.

Lettner works at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (Art History Museum Vienna). She was dramatic advisor and assistant director for the TOI-Haus-Theater in Salzburg (1992-95), cultural journalist and university lecturer for literature and art history at University of Salzburg and Bard College, in New York.

Hanak is a curator at the Jewish Museum Vienna. His previous film credits include the documentary film ‘Drop Outs’ (1990) and the short film ‘Die Reise des Tellerwäschers’ (‘The Dishwasher’s Journey,’ 1988).

Their film focuses on a few unique Lower Topanga personalities, including James Mathers, a painter living in an Airstream trailer; Norton Wisdom, performance artist and lifeguard in Malibu; Carole Winter, die hard flower child; Herb Bermann, former rock poet who wrote songs for Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band; and Robert “Baretta” Overby, who sings the haunting ‘Malibu Song’…

Malibu’s known for its own way of life

Malibu’s known for the sun

But if Malibu’s all you achieve in your life

Then tomorrow you’re walking alone.

These lyrics ring true as the Lower Topanga community is finally broken up in 2006, making the film a historical document of perhaps the last such neighborhood in Southern California.

‘Malibu Song’ premiered at the Austrian Film Festival ‘Diagonale,’ and was featured in Vienna’s art-house theaters and on Austrian TV.

The Los Angeles (and U.S.) premiere will take place on October 30, 7 p.m., at the Goethe Institute Los Angeles, 5750 Wilshire Boulevard, 90036. Tickets are $5, and the screening will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers. For more information, call 323.525.3388.