Everything You Need To Know About Forgotten Tragedy: The Story of the St Francis Dam
Contact director Jesse Cash at:

The failure of the St Francis Dam in 1928 was the worst man-made disaster in 20th century America.  California filmmaker Jesse Cash, was intrigued by the fact that such massive disaster could be all but forgotten.  In May 2016, he set out to make a short 20 minute film telling the story of the disaster.   The further he researched, the more details of the event presented themselves.   What began as a short film grew as the story grew.  Its finished length of  74 minutes tells the story of the dam, its failure, the rise of Los Angeles, and the stunning success and sudden fall of William Mulholland, a man whose name was once synonymous with Los Angeles itself.


Winner: "Best Film December 2018"- Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards

Winner: "Best Narration Writing"Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards

Winner: "Best Director" Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards

Semi-Finalist Best Documentary Feature - AltFF Alternative Film Festival

Official Selection : Impact Documentary Awards


Embeddable Trailer

Image Gallery                   

Film Clips 

Embeddable Trailer

To share or embed the trailer, use the link below

Or, click Share in the embedded video below (paper airplane button) for more options
St Francis After.jpg
The_St._Francis_Dam before USGS.jpg
William Mullholland 1908-1913.jpg

Clips From Film


Coming Soon

The Story Behind Forgotten Tragedy: The Story of the St Francis Dam

Forgotten Tragedy: The Story of the St. Francis Dam,” the 74-minute documentary, is now available to stream and download at and at Vimeo On Demand.  Rentals are available at $3.99 and purchase steaming/downloads are only $9.99,

Featuring newly discovered film footage, not seen in more than 90 years, this film explores the constant struggle for water in the burgeoning city of Los Angeles, a struggle that led to larger and larger water projects, and the rise of a legend William Mulholland.   An engineering legend, Mulholland was the driving force behind the Los Angeles Aqueduct, an engineering marvel that made a modern and booming Los Angeles possible.  He would go on to create project after project to secure Los Angeles' water future, culminating in the creation of the St. Francis Dam, a monstrous structure capable of holding 12.6 billion gallons of water, enough for the city's needs for an entire year.  

The failure of the St. Francis devastated two counties (destroying billions of dollars in property and farm land), killed hundreds of people, wiped out 25 entire families, forever changed engineering, and ended the career of a giant.

Cash explains, “I couldn't believe that no one knew this story.  How could the worst man-made disaster of the 20th century be forgotten?  What started as a short film project grew and grew as one discovery led to the next.  This is a story that deserves to be told, and I've done my very best to honor the story and the memories of those involved."

Forgotten Tragedy features an interview with Anne Stansell, a National Park Archeologist who was the first researcher to assemble a complete list of victims, and an expert on the failure of the dam.  Also featured in the film are archival interviews with witnesses and participants, including Mike Corralejo (who helped search the wreckage for survivors and victims), Henry Ivan Dorsett (whose sister lost most of her family in the community above Power Plant #2), and  Keith Buttelman (an expert on the conditions surrounding the failure of the structure).  Newly discovered film footage highlighted by historic reenactments featuring talented performers, and over 500 historic images, the film is the first to tell the story in its entirety, as it deserves to be told.


On December 15, 2018, after 2 1/2 years of research and production months of production, Cash released the film with a Vimeo premier. The film will be released on Amazon in February, and DVD's will follow in August, 2019.


Forgotten Tragedy: The Story of the St. Francis Dam is now available at and at Vimeo On Demand.


Film Descriptions

Short Tagline: The story of 20th Century America's worst man-made disaster, finally revealed.

Medium Logline: The 1928 failure of the St. Francis Dam, in the hills outside Los Angeles, was the worst man-made disaster of the 20th century.  Yet the story has been all but forgotten on a state and national level. The sudden collapse of the St. Francis Dam on the night of March 12, 1928 is a pivotal moment in the story of Los Angeles, as well as the story of civil engineering in America.  This engrossing documentary is dedicated to telling this fascinating story, to those affected by the tragedy, and to lovers of history everywhere.

Longer Synopsis: What was the worst man-made disaster of 20th century America?  If you are like most people, you don't truly know.  That is because the failure of the St. Francis Dam, in 1928, has been forgotten by all but the most dedicated group of dam historians in the Los Angeles and Ventura County communities affected by the tragedy.  However, this is a story that deserves to be told.  It is a tale of constant struggles to protect Los Angeles's water future, struggles that led William Mulholland to attempt greater and greater engineering marvels.  This is the story of water making it possible for Los Angeles to grow from a small town of 9000 people, to one of the world's great cities in less than a century,  and it is the tale of the rise and fall of a legend: William Mulholland, a man once synonymous with Los Angeles itself.  The failure of the St,. Francis Dam is a seminal moment in the story of Los Angeles, California, and the nation, and it is finally being told in this film.  Featuring newly discovered film footage (not seen in over 90 years) and a collection of interviews with experts and witnesses,this engrossing film is the first to tell this remarkable story. 


Director’s Biography

Jesse Cash is a Southern California based filmmaker and performing artist.  A bit of a renaissance man, he has worked in many areas of entertainment in the last twenty years.   He is a veteran actor and director, an alumni of ComedySportz, and a former nationally-touring stand up comedian.   Cash is an alumni of the University of California at Santa Barbara (where he studied Theatre).

Jesse Cash's IMDB page.

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter - White Circle
  • Pinterest Social Icon