Jordan Livingston was just a year old when the last DeLorean sports car rolled off the assembly line in Dunmurry, just outside Belfast in Northern Ireland, a mere three years after it debuted, but as a boy the car — with its sleek metallic look and gull-wing doors — spoke to him.
In fact, he became obsessed with it.
What he didn’t realize is that a lot of people are obsessed with the car — launched in 1981 by American engineer John DeLorean, known for his work at General Motors before founding the DeLorean Motor Co. — thanks to its appearance in the wildly popular “Back to the Future” movies.
Twelve years after he began working on a documentary on the iconic car, the San Rafael resident’s “DeLorean — Living the Dream,” will be screened virtually Monday as part of the Tiburon International Film Festival, which runs through Dec. 17.
“I always wanted one but it was out of my price range,” says Livingston, who worked full time in the film industry while also researching, filming and editing his self-financed labor-of-love film. “I made this movie partially as a way to get close to the car.”
There have been numerous movies made about the rise and spectacularly scandalous fall of the car’s founder, including 2019’s “Framing John DeLorean,” as well as the failed car. It was, as Barrie Wills, author of three books on John DeLorean, says in the film, “The greatest near miss in automotive history.”
In 2007, when DMC in Texas announced it was going to manufacture new DeLoreans made from a large cache of original parts, Livingston directed a short film for a now-defunct online media outlet about the new rollout and thought that would be that.
But once he discovered the international community of DeLorean fans and owners and their passion for the automobile — there are some 6,500 of them still on the road around the world, and numerous conventions, gatherings and online groups dedicated to it — he realized that’s the story that needed to be told.
The documentary — his first — is about the car of course, but it’s really about how, 40 years after the car was introduced, people have embraced the advertising slogan — “Live the Dream.”
Narrated by Petaluma actor Jeffrey Weissman, best known for his iconic role as George McFly in the second and third “Back to the Future” movies, the documentary features interviews with owners; enthusiasts; former DMC factory workers and executives in Dunmurry; DeLorean’s daughter Kathryn and automotive journalists, as well as “Back to the Future” cast and crew.
Some fans featured in the film have spent years and a lot of money trying to re-create in painstaking detail the time-traveling DeLorean featured in “Back to the Future.”
“There are two different types of DeLorean owners. There are owners who see it as a way of connecting with their favorite film and connecting with their childhood. Then there are owners who are purists and really know the history and all the innovations DeLorean came up with and breakthrough technologies that have nothing to do with ‘Back to the Future,’” he says. “I think there’s no question that without the ‘Back to the Future’ movies, the car would not be the zeitgeist in the same way.”
Still, Livingston was quite surprised to find another view of the sports car when he went to Dunmurry for the first of three times to interview people who worked on the car.
“There was a stark contrast. If you interview DeLorean enthusiasts here in the States, it’s all about how cool the car is and how much they love the ‘Back to the Future’ movies,” says Livingston, 38, who grew up in Tiburon. “But then you go to Northern Ireland and talk to people who either worked on the car or their father worked on the car or their neighbor worked on the car, and they are absolutely impassioned and emotional. It was like a milestone event in these people’s lives. And when you see that, you realize this was so much more than just a car — it really is a chapter in world history.”
Livingston sees his film as offering an uplifting message that speaks to the moment.
“In a time when we’re so divided and so polarized and, now more than ever because of COVID, so isolated, I really think this demonstrates how easy it is for people from all walks of life to come together and find common ground,” he says. “You have people from all walks of life from all over the world with different politics, with language barriers, and they all get along and have a great time together because they’re focusing on something that they share in common. It reminds me of how much we can accomplish when we come together and focus on something positive rather than our differences.”
Livingston credits the generosity, help and support of the DeLorean community during the 12 years he worked on the film for keeping him going. The documentary is a love letter to them. They not only lead him to the film, but also to a marriage — he met his wife in Northern Ireland — and, as of about five years ago, a DeLorean of his own.
“One thing that happens when you’re around DeLorean owners is that everybody is reaching out to you to let you know when there’s a car to buy,” he says.
And all the gushing they do about the car in his film? It’s all true, he says.
“You can’t go anywhere in a DeLorean in a hurry. If you’re stopping to get gas, that could be a 30-minute photo session. A lot of people have described it as a smile machine. Everybody loves the car,” he says.
“There are a lot of luxury cars in Marin and a lot of people don’t even turn their heads at a $200,000 Ferrari or Porsche, but everybody looks at the DeLorean. You definitely want to make sure you’ve done your hair before you go out.”
Details: “DeLorean — Living the Dream” will be screened virtually at 8 p.m. Monday as part of the Tiburon International Film Festival, through Dec. 17. To purchase tickets, $11, and to see a schedule of films, go to bingewave.com/f/tiburon-international-film-festival