The Isla Vista Community Services District passed a resolution condemning the newly released movie “Deltopia” at its Oct. 10 board meeting.
The film, directed by Michael Easterling and Jaala Ruffman, was announced in 2021 and met with widespread disapproval from the Isla Vista community and the Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD).
IVCSD Director Spencer Brandt and then-director Catherine Flaherty co-authored an open letter addressing the cast and crew of the movie, condemning what they perceived as an inaccurate, insensitive portrayal of Isla Vista “party culture” that would draw in more outsiders and minors to the annual, unsanctioned Deltopia event.
“It was very clear that the purpose of the film was all about glorifying 17-year-old high school students who are coming to Isla Vista to party and was really creating a picture of Isla Vista that was not aligned with our community’s values,” Brandt said in an interview with the Nexus.
Brandt said he and Flaherty went to “great lengths” in 2021 to secure the contacts of and reach out to the cast and crew of the film and express their concern but ultimately did not receive a response from anyone involved in the production of the film.
The film was released on Aug. 29 on digital platforms for purchase, without a theatrical release.
Directors and producers of the film did not immediately respond for comment over social media.
A resolution condemning the film was presented at the IVCSD’s Oct. 10 meeting, stating that the film presents a plot aligning with an inaccurate portrayal of the 2014 I.V. riots and perpetuates a “glorified” and “untrue” narrative about the college town.
The annual unsanctioned street festival has historically drawn large crowds and outsiders, and in 2014, it saw unrest between partygoers and law enforcement.
“The nature of this movie and how it portrays Isla Vista is wrong, and we need to say it’s wrong and not let it just slip by without making a formal comment because our board is working hard to address these misconceptions and help change the culture of Isla Vista,” IVCSD Director Kirsten Deshler said at the meeting.
The resolution passed with a 6-1 vote. IVCSD Director Jay Freeman — the lone dissenting vote — made the argument that “once people are aware that some information has been kept from them, they are significantly more motivated to get and spread it,” and passing the resolution condemning the film would simply draw more attention to it.
However, Brandt said that from what he has observed, the movie has not gained any traction. Efforts to discourage out-of-towners from arriving for Deltopia should be renewed in light of the film, according to him, and he stands by the resolution’s message that the film’s portrayal of Isla Vista is deeply harmful.
“Our goal is to encourage people not to watch the movie and not to financially support the producers, who I think are really doing a major disservice to all of the Santa Barbara community,” Brandt said.
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Oct. 19, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.