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Corona del Mar man’s new documentary examines the Great American Eclipse

A new documentary produced by a longtime Corona del Mar resident is delving deep into the emotions, obsessions and anxieties relating to what is being called the Great American Eclipse.

“Totality: The American Eclipse,” executive produced by Peter Richards, comes as large swaths of the United States will experience the celestial splendor of a total solar eclipse Monday, when the moon will block the sun and cause the sky to grow dark starting about 9 a.m. locally.

The independent documentary from Bird Rock Productions takes its name from the term “totality,” a momentous peak of the eclipse when the moon entirely covers the sun. In the case of the 2017 eclipse, totality will be fully experienced along a path of the United States that goes from coast to coast and includes spots in Oregon, Idaho and South Carolina.

“Totality,” written and directed by Eryl Cochran, includes interviews with a variety of people who study and travel the world to witness eclipses. The experts explain an obsession to see the event, which they insist cannot be properly photographed or filmed to document its true majesty.

Richards agrees.

“This movie helps you understand that you have to be there to see it,” Richards said in a recent interview from Oregon, where he is staying to witness the phenomenon. “You have to be there to feel the emotion.”

“The moon and the sun are so far away, and they’re impacting the Earth,” he added. “There’s a shadow on the Earth from that. You feel kind of small when compared to the whole universe.”

“Totality” is Richards’ first foray into films. His background is in accounting.

In the film, Mike Kentrianakis, solar eclipse project manager with the American Astronomical Society, said seeing a filmed eclipse compared to a real one is to be missing “out on life.”

“To stay inside and watch it on TV? That’s sacrilege,” he says. “That’s like never being rained on or never actually soaking in the sunny day.”

“Totality” also explores how the small American towns that will be in the eclipse’s totality path are worried about being overrun. Locals warn that cell phone service could go dead as the area towers are overloaded.

It also examines price gouging. One town’s nightly motel rate shot up from $209 a night to about $1,500.

“Totality,” which runs for 63 minutes, is available for streaming online on Amazon and Vimeo.

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @BradleyZint


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