KCSB will host a screening of the documentary “Radio Bandido” — investigating activist radio programmer Oscar “Bandido” Gomez’s unexplained death — at 7 p.m. tonight in Pollock Theater.
Gomez hosted the “La Onda Chicana” show, combining music and social commentary during his time at UC Davis. He was found dead on a beach in Isla Vista in 1994 at the age of 21. Filmmaker Pepe Urquijo, a personal friend of Gomez, will attend the screening and a Q&A session following the film.
According to Urquijo, the event demonstrates Gomez’s ability to use a powerful medium to amplify his message.
“A fascinating thing about Oscar’s life is that even though he was young, he touched so many people’s lives,” Urquijo said. “The range of folks that loved him and had a connection with him is the kind of thing that has always surprised me about his life.”
KCSB Development Coordinator Ted Coe said Gomez, who traveled throughout the state to attend and report on protests, paid homage to the social revolutionaries of South America through his broadcast moniker.
“He was an organizer and an activist; the reason he called himself the ‘Bandido’ was because he was inspired by stories of social bandits of the 19th century such as Emiliano Zapata,” Coe said. “He wanted to cover issues that affected Chicanos and Latinos.”
At the time of his death, Gomez had traveled to Isla Vista to cover a hunger strike, protesting the prevention of Professor Rodolfo Acuna’s appointment as chair of UCSB’s Chican@ Studies Dept.
The documentary illustrates the aspirations Gomez held at the time of his death, Urquijo said.
“It was with the understanding that we were both going to go to Northern California to pursue our education and also our passion — his, the radio and mine, film — using media to help and inform the community,” Urquijo said.
While the documentary presents itself as an unsolved mystery, Coe said certain facts can be gleaned from its content.
“The trailer indicates that toxicology reports show he wasn’t particularly inebriated,” Coe said. “His body was found in a location that wasn’t typical. There also were not abrasions that suggested a fall — only a head trauma, so there are enough questions.”
According to Coe, many community members voiced concerns that local officials never pursued a thorough investigation.
“Some people felt that maybe he had an encounter with an unknown individual — that maybe there was foul play — but after two weeks they closed the case,” Coe said. “When there is a tragedy for a person of color sometimes it is not given as much attention.”
Coe said he hopes the screening will reopen discussion about the circumstances surrounding Gomez’s death.
“We are excited to preview the film and we are also trying to support an independent project and not everybody is going to appreciate the questions that are being asked,” Coe said. “But we support independent voices and opinions.”