The upcoming release of a slasher film titled Del Playa has triggered a massive outcry from UCSB students and Isla Vista residents who say the movie is offensive and exploitive and hits too close to home so soon after last year’s murders.
The film’s trailer, released yesterday, includes footage from Isla Vista and UCSB and features what appears to be a string of killings committed in a seaside community by an alienated young protagonist who’s been rejected by a love interest.
Just hours after the trailer was uploaded to YouTube (it can be viewed below), UCSB graduate Kate Nollner created a change.org petition to halt Del Playa‘s October release. More than 15,000 supporters have since signed the petition. Social media message boards are alight with comments condemning the film. Its creators have responded on Facebook and Twitter that the movie is a “satire of events” and not based on the Isla Vista murders.
“We really are just hurt,” said Nollner Thursday morning. “This is so close to our hearts.” Nollner, who graduated from UCSB in June and now works and lives in Santa Barbara, was out of town when last year’s killings took place, but she said the panic and worry she felt for her friends back in Isla Vista was deeply traumatic.
That day, May 23, 2014, Santa Barbara City College dropout Elliot Rodger stabbed two of his roommates and their friend to death before embarking on a shooting rampage through Isla Vista that left three more dead. He then committed suicide. All six victims were UCSB students; 13 more people were injured. The incident generated national discussions and new state legislation around gun control and mental health treatment.
“When I first heard about the movie, it disgusted me,” Nollner said. “And when I watched the trailer, it felt like that night was happening all over again — I was back in a place of helplessness.” Nollner said she’s especially upset that the Isla Vista community is being forced to “watch someone make money off our pain.” “We understand freedom of speech and expression,” she went on, “but our town and our tragedy are not commodities.’” Nollner said a drama or documentary would have been a more appropriate genre for the subject matter.
Short of stopping Del Playa‘s release, Nollner and others would like to work with the filmmakers to rename the movie and donate its proceeds to an Isla Vista memorial fund. “We’d like to make a positive out of this gross thing they’ve created,” she said. “They have the right to make the movie, but it shouldn’t be profiting off the death of students. It’s a horrible precedent to set.” Nollner is scheduled to speak with the filmmakers later today.
Del Playa was written and directed by UCSB alumn Shaun Hart and produced by Berger Bros Entertainment. Hart and producer Josh Berger declined requests for an interview, but Hart provided a prepared statement. It reads:
First and foremost, I would like to publicly apologize to everyone who has been offended in any way by our making of this film. It was never our intent to monopolize on the tragic shootings in Isla Vista that took place last year. While I do admit there is the connection of Santa Barbara, this film is not about Elliot Rodger. The fictional character in the film is not meant to portray anyone in particular. It is meant to portray incidents that take place, not only in Santa Barbara, but across the country on a daily basis.
Our intentions were not to make light of such a serious issue, but to engage our audience in an active discussion about bullying and violence.
As a graduate of UCSB and a former resident of Del Playa, that day was a knife to my heart. For me, the actions of one individual tainted a lot of good memories of an innocent time and brought darkness to a place that should only be home to the hopes and dreams of the young.
For all touched by the tragedy at Isla Vista, know this: I stand right there with you. And share love and compassion for our fallen Gauchos, and all those who grieve for the victims/people affected by these recurring events.