In Response to ‘Del Playa’: Cease and Desist

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Hector Sanchez Castaneda
Isla Vista Beat Reporter
Photo Courtesy of Berger Bros Entertainment. 

Shaun Hart: Your movie Del Playa, inspired by the 2014 Isla Vista tragedy, is pending release in the upcoming weeks—a little over a year after six Gauchos were killed, and several others injured. You claim this is a “very stylized” horror and satire film aimed at exposing mental health and gun culture present in America, and that you want to make sure we never forget or forgive.

It seems to me you are describing quite a different movie from what I saw in the recently released trailer. All I witnessed was a slasher film void of vision, a B-movie with no worthwhile message.

I thought I had seen it all with the disgusting flash game about the massacre and the ridiculous YouTube videos claiming that the whole shooting was a hoax organized by the government. But it looks like the firestorm just keeps spreading.

I saw the movie’s trailer, and I think I’m missing something. I saw no guns. I saw no satire or humor. I saw nothing of what you claim this movie is about. All I saw was the glorification of a killer. The movie trailer shows how a boy is rejected by a pretty girl, attacked by her cocky boyfriend and his cronies and suffers from domestic abuse. The scene from the trailer in which he crashes through a glass window in slow-motion to grab his victim portrays heroism and bravery. You want us to sympathize with him and champion him as an underdog who is gaining retribution.

Additionally, the women in the trailer are depicted as drunk, party-crazy individuals—the common stereotype of girls who are cruel to the unpopular kids and only go for the mean-spirited jocks. You’re turning the killer into a protagonist, giving him a pedestal. You say you were “rocked” by the event last year, but if that were true, you would not be making this sorry excuse of a film. It is textbook anti-feminist, a resoundingly misogynistic take on the matter.

Your movie is a cut-and-dried example of the exploitation of tragedy. Stop lying to yourself by calling this thing a beneficial piece of art. You are no artist. Art is meant to evoke a feeling of awe; it makes us want to share it with our friends and family members, eager to discuss and hear their opinions. Your movie will not elicit that sentiment. Instead, it will bring up memories of pain and suffering, without the benefit of reflection. 

Even though your producers claim there is no connection between the film and actual events, we all know where the plot comes from. Your movie’s killer is based on the real life version that caused the tragedy of May 2014. You are dealing with university students, not a handful of thoughtless consumers.

If you would have made a well-researched, thought-provoking documentary, you probably would not be facing this outrage. Look at the documentary Bowling for Columbine. It depicted the Columbine High School massacre accurately and asked bigger questions about gun laws and mental health issues, things you claim you are trying to satirize with your film. The difference is that you display a blatant disregard for those affected by the IV shooting.

Do you actually believe that your movie is going to change things? Do you think people will watch your movie and say, “Well, things have to change. This film has opened my eyes.” That thought is asinine. This film’s main objective is entertainment. Your film revolves around the execution of murders, not on the larger issues you want to address. Again, I saw no guns in the trailer, and mental health issues seem to be subdued by attributing the killer’s actions to bullying and domestic abuse. You seem set on excusing the killer’s behaviour rather than honoring the victims. 

Did you not think about the students that lost friends, or about the injured that will be haunted by the incident for the rest of their lives? In case you are not aware, your movie has the potential to inflict trauma upon the UCSB and IV community, as well as all others who have continued to be affected by this tragedy. 

I previously wrote about the one-year anniversary candlelight vigil—an event you disdainfully alluded to when you said, “People are quick to hold vigils and cry outrage and yet nothing substantial has been done to tangibly eradicate the root of the problem.” I saw a community still reeling, one that suffered from the mere recollection of lost friends. These events you call “nothing substantial” are used for healing and for honoring the victims. Your self-proclaimed satire is nothing more than a capitalization on tragedy.

I do not know why you would ever think that we could forget. You were a Gaucho once, but the development of this film and its release indicate a deep, insensitive lack of respect for your former community. Stop using your status as a UCSB alumnus to justify your actions. If you were truly a Gaucho, this film would not see a release.

There is a petition asking for the immediate halt of this film: https://www.change.org/p/berger-bros-entertainment-shaun-hart-josh-berger-halt-release-of-del-playa-movie?recruiter=269301756&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink


Listen to the people, Shaun, and do right by your alma mater. 

Hector Sanchez Castaneda

Hector is from Ensenada, Mexico, and is currently a sophomore majoring in English. After beginning as a staff writer his first year, Hector became Isla Vista Beat reporter.

If he isn’t reading a book or re-watching episodes of Breaking Bad, he’s probably writing about Isla Vista.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Hector, thank you for sharing – you accurately summed up and articulated a lot of the feelings many of us have experience but not shared in lieu of this trailers release. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  2. Hector, you are a wonderful writer! You brought up fantastic points that I failed to take notice of. I hope that whatever you do as a career, you get to share your writing, because like Ali said, you really did articulate the thoughts and feelings of SO many people in this community. Thank you for defending our home and our Gaucho family

  3. People are traumatized by war movies, rape scenes, child abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction in films. He is capitalizing on a tragedy I don’t agree but thats freedom of speech. You can’t and won’t stop it just don’t watch it.

  4. This is a tough situation i see, and I like your view point on the matter. But you must remember chaos isn’t a pit chaos is a ladder, many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again…the fall breaks them.

  5. I see your viewpoint Frank but you must remember that some are given the chance to climb, but refuse.

  6. Hector, you are entitled to your opinion, but so is Shaun Hart. Your attack on this film is also an attack on freedom of speech, and as an English major yourself, I can’t imagine you wanting someone to censor your voice as a writer… and your freedom to speak your mind. I started reading your rant, and while I foumd some of your points valid, the overall message goes off track when you interject your judgements, bias and harsh tone into the piece. That said, you are entitled to speak your mind, and I am entitled to read your opinion OR not. If I don’t like what you write, then as you can so justly say, I shouldn’t read it. But I wouldn’t attack you because you wrote it. You should consider the same rights for other Americans who are entitled to their voice as well.

  7. Bob – We all know how much this country loves freedom of speech. I think you missed the central point of this article. It’s not aiming to censor the film; it’s a plea to Mr. Hart for self-censorship – a key difference. We all have the right to speak, but there are ethical and moral limits one should always have in mind. Hector is a student at UCSB, and has probably seen firsthand the pain this tragedy has caused in his community, so his “harsh” tone is justifiable. Mr. Hart is taking advantage of a serious matter, and should be called out for it. Individuals should not conform to exploitative techniques just because everyone has the right to say as they wish.

  8. Hector and everyone else this is much to do about nothing. Your statement about glorifying guns,and then recanting that there are no guns. Why compare the two Shaun’s movie is a typical slasher. The only comparison is Del Playa but didn’t Shaun Hart go to school there? From what I saw it’s a movie that made me want to jump into my guys arms. And stop being a hater it looks like a a well made film . Tell me Hector what’s on your resume? Waiter ?

  9. Hector – thank you for taking the time to articulate these points so thoughtfully and rationally. Keep up the excellent work; continue to be a voice for those who don’t have one or are afraid to use it.

    With respect to the freedom of speech argument – I am all for First Amendment rights and agree that efforts to prohibit certain expressions can be a slippery slope towards unwarranted censorship on a larger scale. That being said, I think there needs to be deeper, more informed consideration around both the small and big-picture implications resulting from said expressions.

    A movie like this hits theaters, a mentally-unhealthy/unstable person sees the movie, and now that person thinks reacting to suppressed emotion with violence is just a little bit more acceptable than they did before seeing the movie – it normalizes the idea of responding to emotions with violence. It’s the same exact social phenomenon that occurs when females see airbrushed stick-thin models in movies and magazines; it makes the masses think that those depictions are how things “should be” (in this example, how women “should look”).

    Personally speaking, it is SO difficult for me to not feel pure hatred and rage with the director and producers of this film. But if there’s one thing I, and the IV community in general, seemed to have learned from this tragedy, it’s that one should always pick love instead of hate.

    I wish there were a way for the director/producers of this film to feel the same indescribable love we feel for our Isla Vista community, the healing process we’ve embarked upon, and our six new Gaucho angels.

  10. These killings, especially in student communities, will go on ’till the day we learn to not exclude anyone socially. People of Isla Vista are not innocent, people of our society are not innocent, when these things happen. We STILL base our social circles and choosing our friends on what is people’s STATUS in the social hierarchy, while those things should be based on mutual interests or similar life values only. As long as we keep on rejecting those who are lower than us in the social pecking order, these things will happen. I’m not saying anyone’s entitled to kill other people for being rejected, but too much is too much, like in the case of Elliot Rodger, who wasn’t even SEEN by his peers. Then, if we add all the other aspects of present society, like being totally dependent on social networks in creating one’s future, it’s no wonder, these killings happen.

    I’ve been there, totally ostracized by my peers as I was young. No-one even talked to me unless they had to, and even then the replies were monosyllable. It’s pure hell, to be excluded like that. Thank God I could rely on developing myself and dreaming about better future, as not everything was dependent on social networks back then. I don’t think it’s possible today: if you are a loser as a youth, with no friends, you’ll be loser your entire life, with no career or family. You should count this in, before you say the victims of Isla Vista were totally innocent. They were innocent only in the sense they had nothing to do with the rejection the perpetrator experienced, except maybe his roommates to some point.

    It’s important bullying and social ostracism are dealt with in entertainment movies as well, because there are whole lot more of people seeing them, than any documentaries. Also, there has been a documentary made about the killings of Isla Vista already, which you can find online. It was a good and thoughtful documentary.

    The best solution to this, in my opinion, would be to postpone the releasing of this movie, for a year or two. Also, the creators of this movie could make a pack, to donate part of the profits to mental health care or supporting the bully victims, or maybe even the victims of school shootings.

  11. Listen people the horror/slasher genre of films is more often then not based on a real life tragedy i.e Scream was based on the Gainesville Ripper a man who raped, murdered, mutilated, and then he had sex with the corpses of several young college girls so don’t get your panties in a bunch over a movie because like it or not IT IS ONLY A F$#%ING MOVIE! Now I understand IV is still in pain my god who wouldn’t be but crying outrage about a movie you have not seen is pretty weak and sort of harsh. Yes it is portrayed as a slasher movie in a trailer but like most trailers a studio takes clips that they think will entice people to see the movie. A masked killer hacking up drunk teenagers usually draws a big crowd so with or without the directors consent the studio will put together a trailer that they believe will make them more money. Also about the candlelight vigils sorry but Hart is right we sob and hold vigils but when it comes time to change things most sit back and cry outrage or say nothing at all. Here’s an idea work on fixing the problem that caused the Isla Vista shootings or sit down shut up and don’t see the movie or better yet see the movie and then state your half assed opinions. Refusing to see something is the best form of censorship.

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