An abandoned Air Force station lies in disrepair on the top of Mt. Tam in Marin County. Photo courtesy of Gary Yost.
Over the past few years, Mill Valley filmmaker Gary Yost has made it his mission to draw attention to the much-needed restoration of Mt. Tam’s western peak. He’s done so with a series of three short films, the third of which, “Song of the Last Place,” debuted at “The Mountain Calls,” a One Tam evening hosted by Tomales Bay Miwok descendent Sky Road Webb and television host Doug McConnell at the Throckmorton Theatre earlier this month.

The series spans from 1950, when “the military bulldozed the highest peak of Mt. Tam to build an Air Force radar station tasked with directing jet interceptors and short range nuclear missiles against the potential threat of Russian nuclear bombers,” to 1980, when “the base was obsolete and summarily closed. The military walked away from dozens of structures, leaving behind a huge toxic mess on the mountain,” Yost writes. 

“West Peak Trilogy.”

Yost told the Marin Independent Journal that “Song of the Last Place” is his “most ambitious project yet. It’s meant to evoke a direct emotional experience of the sacred and melancholy feeling of being on Tam’s true summit in the ruins of the old Air Force station.”

To do so, Yost brought in local cellist Katy Boyd and guitarist Jimmy Dillon to perform a “variation on a sarabande (dance) from a Bach cello suite among the junkyard remains that scar a place long considered the spiritual heart of Marin County.”

“We envisioned a call-and-response between the cello and guitar while being surrounded by the spirits there,” the filmmaker explains. “The film was inspired by one of our great beat poets, Lew Welch, who wrote the poem ‘The Song Mt. Tamalpais Sings’ in 1969.”

The 10-minute film comes on the heels of “The Invisible Peak,” a 22-minute documentary narrated by Peter Coyote that Yost debuted in 2014, and “Mountains Made of Chalk, Fall Into the Sea,” a short film he shot in 2015 showing street painting artist Genna Panzarella creating a Mount Tam landscape in chalk on the concrete slab of the station’s mess hall.

Watch it here:

And here are the first two films:

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