Escape to Slab City

Escape to Slab City is a 20-minute documentary about Moria Sue Clark, a 38-year-old woman living in Slab City, California. It follows her over a two-month period including her birthday and daily life. Clark discusses the impact of having her children taken from her by Child Protective Services and how her faith in God saved her. Her husband, Ben Morofsky, 52, lives with her and shares in her hardships. The two live in a trailer without electricity or plumbing.

Clark had her first child, Kathryn, at 21. She moved to Slab City in order to avoid living in Montana with her sexually abusive father. Moria met Ben when Kathryn was a one-year-old, they fell in love quickly and moved in together. Due to the sexual abuse Moria experienced as a child, she had to have surgery on her hip when she was a teenager. After Kathryn was born, her doctors told her she would be incapable of having more children, yet she went on to have two boys with Ben. Moria and Ben have been waiting for their children to be returned to them since CPS took them away seven years ago.

Slab City is a community of transients, drug addicts, ex-convicts, hippies, anarchists, transsexuals and people who generally don’t fit into “normal” society. The land was once used by the U.S. Government as a military base but was abandoned in the mid 1950s. At the time, the growing popularity of the Salton Sea brought many tourists to the neighboring town of Niland. When the Sea became too salty for recreational use, the towns surrounding it became abandoned. Slab City became a place for people to move to and not have to pay rent. There is no law on the “slabs” and no real social restrictions. Those that live there year round endure temperatures over 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

Escape to Slab City is the working title of the film made by Brook Institute students, Sarah Bourscheid, Hilary Swift and Chris Martinez. The students traveled to Slab City nearly every other weekend beginning in early September and continuing into the first week of November. Bourscheid and Swift met Moria and Ben on their first visit to Slab City in March of 2014. “Something really drew us to them,” said Bourscheid. The two kept in contact with Ben and Moria over the summer months and decided to do a documentary on them when they began DOC 370 with Karin Stellwagen. Although the semester is over, Martinez, Bourscheid and Swift hope to continue to work on the project. They are currently finishing the final edit and preparing to send it to festivals.