Media Life: Filmmaker returns to Auburn hometown to show documentary

Brandon Vedder, Placer High Class of 2000, to present "La Source" at beloved theater
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Media Life columnist
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Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at or (530) 852-0232.         


Placer High School grad Brandon Vedder is returning to Auburn from his current home base in Los Angeles to share a film that’s already received critical kudos and wowed audiences throughout the world.

Narrated by Oscar- nominated actor Don Cheadle (“Hotel Rwanda,” “Crash”), “La Source” will be screened at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 4 at the State Theater in Auburn.

A writer, editor, cinematographer and producer, Vedder said the choice of location is special to him. The 83-year-old movie house on Lincoln Way is the venue where he first started watching film, fostering his love for the cinema, and helping to lead him into a career making movies and “La Source,” he said.

The film tells the uplifting story of Josue Lajuenesse, a Princeton University janitor from Haiti who returns to his village after the 2010 earthquake to bring clean water to the town.

The screenings, followed by a Q&A with Vedder and an after-party fund raiser from 8:30-11 p.m., will be part of an Auburn effort surrounding the showing of the film to raise $6,500 to provide one water well for the Haitian village of Redoute to serve the needs of about 500 people.

“I’m honored at the opportunity to share my labor of love with the place that began my journey as a filmmaker,” Vedder said. “After crafting this film for over three years, I am thrilled to be part of inspiring Auburn to come together and create real change in a desperate community in Haiti.”

The film premiered at the nation’s preeminent documentary film event - the AFI Discovery Channel Silver Docs Film Festival - and was soon snatched up by the International Documentary Association’s Docuweeks program, which gave the film an Oscar-qualifying one-week theatrical release in Los Angeles and New York. Since then, the 2011 film has played in more than 20 film festivals across the country and been screened as far afield as Australia. The Washington Post described “La Source” as “artfully shot.”

Vedder wrote, filmed and edited “La Source” with Patrick Shen. He’s also one of three co-producers. The film was made in conjunction with the non-profit organization Generosity Water, which has funded and implemented more than 400 water projects in 18 countries and will be working with the Auburn-generated funds to build the Redoute well.


Cheadle onboard

How do you get an A-list actor to do the narrative voice-over in your independent documentary?

For Brandon Vedder, it was a matter of talking to the right person at the right time.

Vedder said Cheadle’s name rose to the top of his list of narrators for “La Source” because of his work in relief projects, his efforts to stop genocide and as a United Nations Environmental Program ambassador.

Vedder didn’t know Cheadle but, as he describes it, he went the traditional route and talked to Cheadle’s agent. The agent had just returned with a group of friends from working in Haiti and helped convince Cheadle that the project was a worthy one.

“Before we knew it, we had Don in the studio and he nailed it,” Vedder said. “He brought it together in an unbelievable way.”

Vedder’s sense of wonder was raised a couple of notches when he learned what the studio session was sandwiched between.

“He had just come from George Clooney’s house, where he was playing basketball with Clooney and President Obama,” Vedder said. “And from the studio, he left to make “Iron Man 3.”


Pearl Jam in his past

In case you were wondering? Yes, Brandon Vedder is related to the famous, rock star Eddie Vedder.

And Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam gave his California cousin some early aid in moving him toward film-making.

As Brandon tells it, he was on a cross-country trip and met up with Eddie Vedder in Chicago. He mentioned his interest in doing anything related to the band and also his interest in film.

After finishing community college in Chico, Brandon was moving toward enrolling in film school and had started working at Starbuck’s in Auburn to earn some money. But four days into his training, a call came from a Pearl Jam employee asking if he had a passport because they had been trying to get in touch with him to see if he’d like to go on the road with the band to film them onstage.

Brandon was on tour for almost four months with the band and the experience solidified his resolve to move forward with a career in film.

“I found my voice as a filmmaker, onstage with a band like that in conditions like that,” Brandon said.

Tickets for the Auburn screenings are $8 for adults and $5 for students or groups of 15 or more. They can be purchased in advance at