When Leif Peterson was 11 years old, the Oregon City native made his first trip to the high desert. While participating in an OMSI science camp, Peterson went to John Day to learn about its famous fossil beds. “I remember seeing the fossils of leaves pressed in the rock and the strange bugs,” says Peterson. “I remember thinking. ‘It’s great out there.’ ”
This past year, Peterson returned to the desert to direct his short film eden. Based on the biblical tale of Adam and Eve, Peterson sought to retell scripture in a contemporary way. But why did Peterson drive to a desert to film paradise when a lush, green environment surrounds him in Portland?
“A lot of the movie is about the evolution of life on Earth,” explains Peterson. “Filming in John Day, on the Painted Hills, above the desert … it’s a pretty primitive site, where you can almost look back in time.”
That said, it’s hard to tell if the film takes place during the time of Genesis or in the future.
eden is the second piece in Peterson’s Origin Series, “an exploration of world myths and religions told through genre films.” The first film, Earth, which is a reworking of Cain and Able, premiered on Oregon Lens last year. If Earth is a Western, then eden is definitely science fiction.
Throughout the film, Peterson weaves breathtaking visuals of the interstellar (planets, satellites, spaceships) with the natural (a man, woman, snake and apple). He makes a strong argument for using science fiction to tell the classic biblical story. From the opening frame of the Big Bang to the closing cries of a child, Peterson asks the fundamental question, “Where did we come from?” And it’s not a stretch turning to cosmos for the answer.
Watch Leif Peterson’s film Eden on Tuesday, August 21 at 10 pm on OPB TV.