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Opening of Olympics in Beijing Dashes the Hopes of ‘Barstow 2008′

August 5, 2008

By Abby Sewell, Desert Dispatch, Barstow, Calif.

Aug. 5–BARSTOW — The 2008 Olympic Games open in Beijing Friday, representing the death of one man’s dream that the international trial of athletic prowess would be held in Barstow.

Of course that man, Benny Finch, was a fictional character in the independent film “Barstow 2008.” The movie, made in 2000, centered around Finch’s quest to bring the Olympics to Barstow, despite the doubts of his family and fellow Barstonians.

The movie was the first feature film co-written by Bob Morrow and Chuck Borghese, who had worked as a team on numerous commercials before. The idea came about in 2000, when the International Olympic Committee was looking for a city to host the 2008 Olympics, Morrow said. Thinking it would be a creative publicity stunt for the Olympic committee to pick an out-of-the-way location, Borghese and Morrow decided to make a film based on a Barstow man’s efforts to bring the games to his hometown.

“We said, ‘Wouldn’t it be creative for the international Olympic selection committee to pick a city no one would expect?’” said Morrow, who directed the film as well as co-writing it. “… We came up with Barstow, because living in L.A. and having been to Barstow, we thought that would really make news.”

Initially, the pair shot a short spoof video, with its protagonist, male manicurist Benny Finch, making his pitch to the Olympic committee. Finch takes a tour of the attractions of Barstow, offering an empty motel swimming pool as the venue for water events and the “Barstow Sportatorium” sports park as the site for track and field. He completes his appeal by making a torch run with a soup can atop a stick as his wife sings the national anthem.

The short took two days of shooting in May 2000, and ultimately, the team shot a feature length film in 12 days in October 2000, Morrow said. The film included about 100 Barstonians in the production as extras, he said.

In the full-length film, Finch loses his job as a manicurist and decides that the best way to redeem himself in the eyes of his family and friends is to bring the Olympic games to Barstow, Morrow said.

“They see him as a dreamer, a guy who’s a little out of touch, but Benny’s a very positive, cando guy,” Morrow said.

Initially apprehensive that Barstonians would take offense to the film’s portrayal of their home, Morrow said he found the locals to have a sense of humor.

“Nobody was offended,” he said. “Everyone got it — it made everyone smile, and I think they found it nice that we were featuring them.”

The movie screened on the film festival circuit and garnered a good reaction, including a Best Actor award for leading man Paul Willson at the 2001 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, but it never found mainstream distribution.

“We were very close, but then 9-11 happened, and everything got thrown kind of out of whack,” Morrow said.

But in the past year, the “Barstow 2008″ concept has had a revival in the form of a short film by the same name that has become a minor sensation on the YouTube video-viewing Web site, garnering more than 52,500 views. Morrow said that as the Olympics season approaches, he has been seeing more feedback on the short film, leading him to entertain the idea of reviving the feature film.

“Maybe we’ll change the name to ‘Barstow 2016,’” he said.

Barstow Parks and Recreation Manager Jeanette Hayhurst said she was entertained by the finished product, despite its not-entirely-flattering portrayal of the city.

“We have a sense of humor — we try not to get offended,” she said. “… We know it’s kind of a spoof, tongue in cheek, but you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself, too. We’d like them to see Barstow in a different way, but you have to get them here first.”

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Copyright (c) 2008, Desert Dispatch, Barstow, Calif.

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