When A Town Runs Dry (Joris Debeij, dir.)

When A Town Runs Dry

Los Angeles-based Hey Baby director Joris Debeij documents the untold story of Statford, a small agricultural town in California’s Central Valley where years of drought are threatening the livelihood of the community in the new short film “When a Town Runs Dry.” The short (8:15) documentary follows three Statford residents: A farmer who has had to sell land that his grandfather originally purchased, a high school football coach who grew up in the area during a very different time and a shopkeeper, an immigrant who loves his adopted town but is having difficulty making ends meet.

Debeij, who is known for his detailed character studies and strong visual storytelling, delivers an ultra-personal glimpse into our three heroes’ lives and the everyday struggle they must endure due to a natural disaster beyond their control. The football coach nostalgically reminisces about growing up in Stratford, when the canals were always filled with water and he and the other children would fish, hunt for frogs, ride their bikes and swim. This voiceover is visually contrasted with scenes of kids playing in the now-dusty, barren riverbeds and loitering around boarded-up businesses that have long since gone under. 

We get an equally strong bond with our shopkeeper, a hard-working and compassionate immigrant from Yemen who often lets his customers run up credit tabs with him, even though he knows that they will be unlikely to ever be able to pay him back. But the most emotionally charged interview comes from the farmer, who laments having to sell the land that has been in his family for generations due to the lack of awareness – or lack of empathy – from people outside of the Central Valley. “Of late, when the water’s become scarce, we don’t get a lot of help from the people who want the food that we grow,” he points out. Although Debeij’s style is decidedly non-confrontational and non-preachy, this politically charged statement drives the message home that we – yes, all of us – need to be taking action to stop the California drought, or it will begin affecting our livelihoods as well.

The viewer is left with a visual of the shopkeeper closing up his lonely store for the night, speaking to no one in particular, “I really like living in this town. I don’t want to leave this town.” 


Production Company
Go Project Films, Production Company
Isaac Bauman, Director of Photography
Adam Loften, Film Editor
Jose Babcock, Camera Operator
Jeremy Asuncion, Camera Production Asst.
Ari Balouzian, Music
Jonathan Vazquez, Sound/Music
Zino van Hamersveld, Sound Designer
Nick Sanders, Colorist