In Baja Come Down, writer & director Anderson Matthew’s feature film debut, the mythological Mexican landscape becomes both a destination and character witnessing the denouement of a queer romance. As written in the protagonist’s journal from the road - ‘When you can’t go West, go South.’
After a successful international festival tour with his short film Las Gitanas (2015), Matthew set his sights on his first feature length narrative project. The map for Baja Come Down came from a melding of subjects near to him: exploring queer relationships and the land south of the US/Mexican border. The son of a Christian pastor, Matthew’s childhood was spent frequently travelling to much of Baja Norte on church trips, and an adulthood of reckoning with his relationship to being queer. The script that emerged layered over these early experiences in Mexico, with organized religion, negotiations of love, queerness, and personal growth through two Angeleno women, Hannah and Charlie.
With his story outlined, Matthew tapped Michelle Ortiz (MADtv, Mr. Corman), whom he’d previously worked with on Las Gitanas, to play the spirited Charlie. Film Independent supported the process of casting for the role of Hannah, where they were introduced to Caitlin Michael Riley (American Vandal, High & Outside). Case Barden (Winning Dad, Malacostraca) came on as producer and longtime collaborator Ava Benjamin Shorr (Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, Equal) joined the project as cinematographer. In August of 2015, the filmmakers launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising initial production funds of $15,000 with the support of friends, family, NoBudge, Chapman University alumni, and the Los Angeles art and film community at large.
Principal photography took place in the spring of 2016, with three days of filming in Los Angeles followed by a nine-day shooting tour through Baja California. Starting in Tijuana, cast and crew journeyed to film at La Bufadora, an Ensenada oceanside tourist attraction, and then continued south to San Quintin. There, the crew spent several days shooting at the humble seaside resort Cielito Lindo (“Pretty Darling”). Adorned with wonderful murals of the ocean and volcanos, and run by friendly manager Bebo (who performed as himself in the film), Cielito Lindo formed a natural backdrop for Hannah and Charlie’s romance and tribulations. In the autumn of that year, Matthew and Ava returned to the Baja coast with Jonathan, a friend and local fixer, to spend time filming intimately with the landscape before wrapping additional photography.
With shooting complete, Matthew worked closely with editor Eric Sheehan (Mirror & Missal) to shape Baja Come Down periodically over the course of the next two years. Early in 2018, the film was selected by Kickstarter for their Rough Cut test screening program at the company’s Brooklyn headquarters. The thoughtful discussion and insights that arose from this early screening informed the final decisions before Baja Come Down was officially picture-locked in May 2018.
From there, the film moved into final color and sound design, with a soundtrack featuring loved songs by Pimpinela, Zemmoa, Fishbach (to name a few), and several original compositions by Baz King, Izobel Garcia, and Robert Brinkerhoff (and more). Baja Come Down was officially completed mid 2019.
Amidst the chaotic landscape of the entertainment industry amidst the Covid pandemic, Baja Come Down was picked up by Ariztical Entertainment for North American digital distribution. Baja Come Down will have its festival premiere at Reeling Chicago in September, 2021.
Hannah and Charlie have an on-and-off relationship, but neither are willing to address it head on. Charlie convinces Hannah to come over to “talk” but somehow they end up in bed and falling back into routine. In an impulsive moment of delusion, Hannah suggests a road trip to Mexico because "Why not?" It’s really not that far from Los Angeles. Charlie doesn’t know how to react - is this crazy? Will this reignite and reconnect them? Or is this relationship suicide? They pack up, and head south of the border along with Hannah’s cat, Lou.
To Hannah, the Baja Peninsula is uncharted territory, a foreign land of mystery and adventure. To Charlie, it's familial roots and childhood vacations. They make new discoveries from a shipwreck to camping on a cliff above the ocean. Mesmerized by the coast under Mexican moonlight, the two reconnect and make love. But they can’t play lovebird tourists for long before the tension between them rises to the surface.
Hannah lives inside her head, her journal, and behind her camera. Charlie can't figure out any access point, and is scared of what truth she might find. By chance they end up at a sea-side resort called Cielito Lindo. Soon, tequila and an argument erupts on a dance floor and spills onto a stormy beach. Charlie finally confronts Hannah - “Why did you bring me here?” But Hannah can’t find the words.
The next morning, Hannah vomits all over the floor and Charlie's forced to nurse her back to health. While Hannah sleeps, Charlie snoops in her journal and finds proof of Hannah’s discontent with the relationship. She decides to take some time and do her own exploring. Meanwhile as Hannah recovers and musters the strength to venture out to the beach. There, she becomes fixated by the volcanos on the horizon. When the two reunite and set out to explore the distant landscape, Charlie receives a call of a crisis from the yoga studio she manages. She must return to attend to her living. She lets Hannah know that they’ll be heading back to Los Angeles soon. But when they return from the volcanos to the resort, an unpleasant surprise forces them to face whether or not they will be returning home separately or together.