Community comes together for free screening of ’21 Miles in Malibu’ at Malibu Bluffs Park
Despite the cool, drizzly weather, the community showed immense dedication to the topic of safety on Pacific Coast Highway as over 100 individuals gathered for the complimentary outdoor screening of “21 Miles in Malibu” at Bluffs Park last Friday night (May 19).
Filmmaker and Malibu resident Michel Shane decided to make this film following the death of his 13 year-old daughter Emily Shane back in 2010. She was struck and killed on purpose by a mentally ill driver (now incarcerated) as she walked next to Pacific Coast Highway near the intersection with Heathercliff Road. Shane wanted to do something constructive in her memory, and this film alerting the public to the dangers of PCH in the hopes of bringing about positive change is the result.
In a 45-minute program before the start of the film, Chris Wizner, former president of the Malibu/Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce, served as the emcee, Scott Tallal was the moderator, and Mayor Bruce Silverstein presented a number of statistics, such as the number of collisions, injuries, traffic citations, and cars on Pacific Coast Highway. For example, he reported that over the past 10 years, there have been 4,000 collisions, including 1,600 with injuries; and 100,000 traffic citations given out.
Sgt. James Arens, traffic sergeant for the LA County Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff Station, and Sgt. Chris Soderlund, the new Malibu liaison from Lost Hills, were on hand to talk about public safety on PCH.
When asked what it’s been like to be first responder to all the carnage on the highway, they both said it takes some getting used to.
“I can still see that one kid gurgling in his own blood,” Soderlund said. “We don’t get numb, but we’re there for a job and to see the victim get the justice they deserve.”
“A lot of [drivers] out there just don’t care,” Arens said. “The way they drive, they don’t have respect for others on the road and don’t follow the rules of the road. They’re just worried about getting somewhere fast.”
There was some discussion about the car clubs that drive through Malibu on weekends. The sergeants agreed that even though there are a lot of “pricy, powerful cars” on PCH, “speed is the number one factor in almost every accident.”
Well-known local car enthusiast Fireball Tim Lawrence said, “I think the problem we have now is shared across the nation post-COVID — it’s angst. Don’t get in your car when you’re mad. A certain level of awareness has to change.”
“We’re blessed to be in Malibu and we point out all the idiots,” Lawrence continued. “But there are programs we can adopt and there are things we can do. I implore each one of you to think about your own level of awareness [when driving] and what you can do as an individual. There have been seven accidents in front of my house in the last three weeks.”
During the audience Q&A, many didn’t have a question so much as the desire to relate their own experience about something horrific that happened to them or that they saw happen on PCH. Everyone seemed to have a story.
One person asked the sergeants what area on PCH was the most dangerous. And their answer is that it’s basically the eastern half of Malibu, where the road is a little windy and “people don’t want to drive 45.” Traffic statistics show that probably the very worst area for accidents is the intersection at Las Flores Canyon Road and PCH.
Others complained that Caltrans creates dangerous situations on the highway, especially now at the site of the Trancas/PCH bridge replacement project, where there have been several recent accidents, including a five-car pileup last week, due to narrow lanes, K-rails, and poor signage.
Arens volunteered that he “has no problems contacting Caltrans” about dangerous situations that they create, and has done so before. He urged anyone seeing a road hazard created by Caltrans to call him at (818) 878-5555 and report it; and/or send a photo to him at email@example.com
Many say the “21 Miles” film should be seen by everyone in Malibu. Several anonymous comments and reactions to the film are posted on its website. One said, “I saw it twice. After the first time,I had to walk away for a couple of days, it is heavy. [It’s] so important, it needs to be seen as widely as possible. If somehow it can move the people who can actually do something to change this highway as much as it moved me, [it has] succeeded.”
Others said, “It’s a transformative film, because once you see it you will never look at or drive on PCH the same way again” and “This film has the potential to change this deadly road and save countless lives.”
“21 Miles in Malibu” was produced by Shane Gang Pictures — Producer Michel Shane, Director Nic Davis, and Editor Meredith Mantik; and is described as “a hybrid of personal stories of loss, the history of a loved place, and a cautionary tale of government indifference and citizen activism.”
“21 Miles” has been featured in a number of trade magazine articles, premiered on Feb. 16 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and won Best Safety Film and Video at the Houston International Film Festival 2023. It can be watched by renting or purchasing it on Amazon’s Prime Video.