Land of Gold explores the making of John Adams and Peter Sellars’s outlandish new opera about the California Gold Rush. The film transports us into very funny and very dark worlds, as two versions of the same story march forward 170 years apart: men and women on a collision course in California on the Fourth of July, 1851, and behind the scenes with quick-witted young opera singers excavating that same history in the age of Trump. Whatever you were expecting in a documentary about the Gold Rush, this is not it.
Amid the backstage hubbub, composer John Adams, singers Julia Bullock, Paul Appleby, J’Nai Bridges, and director Peter Sellars wrestle their bittersweet show “Girls of the Golden West” onto the stage. In Jon Else’s third documentary with Adams, Deadwood meets A Night at the Opera, as this rollicking documentary lays bare the flamboyant and brutal roots of modern American excess.
Directed by Jon Else, English, 2021, 73 minutes