By Cole Cahill
South Pasadena is no stranger to the big screen. Throughout town, big trailers line the streets; and the Hollywood recognition makes sense: many houses in South Pasadena easily pass as Anytown, USA. However, our city is seldom used as the real setting for a movie – not just a suburban-esque background in for Chicago or Massachusetts, but actually in South Pasadena. That is, until the home grown feature film Sweet Old World.
Written and directed by South Pasadena resident and father David Zeiger, Sweet Old World is the story of a father, Brian (John Nielsen), and son, Ethan (Jaques Colimon) who live in South Pasadena. The best friend of Brian’s older son, who died eight years earlier, returns to South Pasadena and attends SPHS where he befriends Ethan, prompting a whirlwind of events.
Ethan is a member of the real life South Pasadena High Marching Band in the film, lead by the real-life Mr. Crawford. The movie features students in band and around campus from 2010, when it was filmed. The band is an integral piece of the film and music is threaded throughout its 86 minutes.
“For Ethan, music is both his solace and his inspiration. It’s his way out of the shadow of grief and into his adult life,” Zeiger said. “For me, high school marching bands are the epitome of what high school is all about – a diverse group of kids bring their individual talents together to create something new and have a great time.”
Sweet Old World shows a refreshingly realistic portrayal of high school through skipping stereotypical social dynamics. While the film takes place in high school, it is not completely driven by it. This is Zeiger’s third film dealing with the setting, which he finds fascinating.
“It’s such a tumultuous, dynamic time of life. Everything’s on a razor’s edge. How could I not be enthralled by that?” Zeiger said. “One thing people often miss about high school is that it’s a time and place where you are in close quarters with a variety of people that you may never come in contact with later in your adult life. A very special time.”
Sweet Old World is more than just a high school family drama. The film deals with family tragedy in a uniquely realistic manner and vividly depicts the raw emotions that come from the death of a family member.
Even so, the film has moments of charm and fun, made even better by featuring SPHS and the city in the background. Zeiger describes his experience on filming in South Pasadena as, “Glorious. Period.”
David Zeiger has directed other films such as Sir! No Sir and Senior Year along with his documentary series “The Band” in which he spends a year with his son in his high school marching band, which served as an inspiration for Sweet Old World.
Sweet Old World is available on DVD and on demand July 1.