Perris Mayor Daryl Busch (right) congratulates filmmaker David Van Houten during the awards ceremony for the movie, “D Street: A Documentary.”
More than 200 people attended the black-tie premiere of a documentary about Perris’s historic D Street Saturday, including the longtime Hollywood filmmaker who called working on the movie one of the most rewarding projects of his career.
Audience members hailed the movie, “D Street: A Documentary” as an unqualified success, saying it captured in 45-minutes a century’s worth of Perris history, culture, diversity, development and recreational activities and opportunities.
“Superlative, way beyond expectations,” said Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley. “The Founding Fathers of Perris would be extremely proud of what has happened to their City and how it has evolved over time.”
Perris Mayor Daryl Busch predicted the documentary will make neighboring cities jealous of Perris and demand their own documentaries.
City Councilman Mark Yarbrough said the documentary “captured the spirit
of our community, past, present and future.”
Local artists paint a poster announcing the movie, “D Street: A Documentary.”
City Councilwoman Rita Rogers agreed the film captures Perris’ “tremendous rich history and diversity.” City Councilwoman Joanne Evans, whose husband comes from a Perris pioneer family, said of the movie: “Simply amazing.”
Local historian Katie Keyes, who appears in the film, called the documentary “a wonderful treasure.’
City dignitaries, historians, long-time Perris residents and out-of-towners with community ties gathered at the Regency Theatre for a pre-screening party. The movie’s director, Hollywood documentarian David Van Houten, came to Perris for the premiere and addressed the near-capacity crowd that gathered to watch his film.
He called making “D Street: A Documentary,” a project he would never forget and one that reminds him constantly of his own past—as the descendant of Perris pioneers Albert and Joseph Hook, who operated
a mercantile on D and Seventh Streets in the 1880s. Albert Hook was
his great-grandfather; Joseph Hook his great-uncle. Van Houten lived in
Perris as a youngster while is parents operated a dry-cleaning business.
Oscar Perris, the grandson of Fred T. Perris, for whom the City is named, chats with Perris City Manager Richard Belmudez prior to the premiere of the documentary about the City’s historic D Street.
Van Houten began videoing the movie during the City’s centennial in 2011, eventually capturing more than 100 hours at festivals, parades, the burial of a 100th anniversary time capsule and during interviews with City officials and long-time Perris residents. The film, which began as a favor and fund-raising effort for the Perris Valley Historical and Museum Association, eventually took on a more significant meaning, as Van Houten learned more about his past by learning about Perris’ past.
Although the movie discusses the development of the City and Perris Valley, it derives its title from the historic thoroughfare where Van Houten’s descendants forged their legacy and which still plays a vital role in Perris of the 21st Century.
The film is a collection of on-camera interviews with elected officials, City administrators, longtime Perris residents and historians interspersed with images from Perris through the decades—of historic D Street, the Hook Brothers and Oak mercantile, the
Perris Theatre--as well as modern images featuring the Perris Valley
Skydiving Center and the Perris Auto Speedway.
Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley presents a plaque to filmmaker David Van Houten following Saturday’s premiere. Ashley called the film “superior” and a lasting legacy to Perris founders
Speaker after speaker in the movie discussed the evolution of the City—from a gold mining community to a farming hub to today’s modern community of homes, businesses and commercial development, all done while respecting the City’s history.
The speakers also touted Perris’ commitment to diversity and equality, saying that all races--Anglos, blacks, Indians, Hispanics—were respected and treated fairly. During the tough days of the Great Depression and World War II, Perris residents survived by looking after their less-fortunate neighbors.
City Clerk Judy Haughney said watching the documentary proved emotional for her.
“I had tears in my eyes,” she said. “This makes me so proud to be part of the City of Perris.”
The City, County and Perris Valley Historical and Museum Association presented Van Houten with awards for his work.
“This began as an archiving project that took on a life of its own,” he said. “I have a real appreciation that a place like Perris really exists. This is a real genuine small town that has maintained its character. There is nothing cheesy about Perris—it’s all authentic. It’s an amazing place.”
Van Houten said the small-town authenticity of Perris retains its ability to lure him back from the Hollywood lights.
“I feel better when I am here,” he said. “It’s the people, it’s the enthusiasm, it’s the real interest in their town that draws me. Perris is an amalgam of all these people working hard.”