A new documentary film by Cyle O’Donnell is set to depict the town of Quartzsite, AZ and its politics, rivalries and melodrama.
O’Donnell describes the film like this: “From allegations of corruption, police harassment and embezzlement, to a murder-for-hire scandal between the first two mayors, the tiny, desert town of Quartzsite, Arizona has seen conflict reserved only for major cities. Now Mike Roth and the police chief he says falsely arrested him are both running for sheriff in the 2020 elections.”
The complex story has been unfolding for years around 40 minutes south of Parker, and many of the original ‘characters’ are still around. But O’Donnell says he didn’t intend to be making the film at all.
“I actually stumbled onto this latest project while filming a travel and culture series I’ve been producing for the last ten years across 43 countries,” he told Parker Live. “Quartzsite is a hub for travelers, and so I was there in February last year filming the insider’s perspective of the nomadic movement when I met Rain Goldenbear. Her interview changed the course of the last year-and-a-half of my life which has essentially been interviewing nearly 60 witnesses across 11 Arizona towns, from judges and attorneys, to police chiefs and newspaper reporters, to politicians and council people, to activists that have ultimately become the centerpiece of the project. In fact, they even inspired the name of the film, Big Trouble in Little Quartzsite.”
The events in Quartzsite, O’Donnell believes, encapsulate many of the issues playing out across the nation today, from individual liberty to police power.
“It’s a microcosm for everything we’re seeing across national headlines right now; corruption, police brutality, systemic imbalances and so on. The film will discuss its early roots, but mostly focuses on the last 30 years,” he said.
A ‘camel driver’ known as Hi Jolly, a b-movie star, a gum museum, a naked bookseller, a murder-for-hire plot between two mayors, an armed march by a right-wing group on Town Hall, giant rock and gem shows, rumors of martial law, hirings and firings and allegations of corruption, Alex Jones and the front cover of the USA Today all factor into the history in Quartzsite. And the story is still ongoing.
“Mike Roth, who plays a major role in the film, is running for sheriff,” O’Donnell said. William Ponce is, too, who was an officer in Quartzsite back when Chief Jeff Gilbert was being accused by Roth of corruption. “So what I’d like to do is have this film released before October, just in time for the November elections. I’d like to see this film come out before then because it is packed full of very relevant and timely issues that face every Arizonan, and every American right now. And since Arizona has something of a history of making impactful statements on political issues throughout the states, I want this film to be a part of that discussion.”
Because he didn’t know what he was getting into, O’Donnell is over-budget on the documentary, which is now also a podcast. He’s offering supporters a free copy of the film in exchange for donations that will allow him to cover editing and other post-production costs.
The film’s website can be found at LegallyInsaneFilms.com.
Listen above to Parker Live’s longer interview with Cyle O’Donnell.