Each year, 60,000 people from around the globe gather in a dusty windswept Nevada desert to build a temporary city, collaborating on large-scale art and partying for a week before burning a...
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Each year, 60,000 people from around the globe gather in a dusty windswept Nevada desert to build a temporary city, collaborating on large-scale art and partying for a week before burning a giant effigy in a ritual frenzy. Rooted in principles of self-expression, self-reliance and community effort, Burning Man has grown famous for stirring ordinary people to shed their nine-to-five existence and act on their dreams. Spark takes us behind the curtain with Burning Man organizers and participants, revealing a year of unprecedented challenges and growth. When ideals of a new world based on freedom and inclusion collide with realities of the "default world," we wonder which dreams can survive.Written by
Community is a pain in the ass, because you have to deal with all kinds of drama, y'know. And as you get older, you're kind of less patient with drama. But really, the reason for me to keep doing this, is a very sound one; I know myself. And if I detest and quit this thing... it would kill me. My life would not have meaning. I wouldn't be forced out of myself. I wouldn't be in contact with people. I would... I'd be just this wretch. I'd be this lonely guy. This is the best thing that ever ...
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This evening a couple friends and I all gathered together to check out Spark: A Burning Man Story at Cinema 21 here in Portland, OR. We were all excited and still glowing from our experiences a couple weeks back in Black Rock City. This year my partner and I started a theme camp and this process provided a whole new appreciation for the Burning Man experience than simply being a participant could provide. I went into this film looking forward to sounding my experiences against a backdrop of historical information and the cinematically captured spirit of my favorite festival on Earth. Unfortunately I was sorely disappointed.
The filmmakers focused a surprising amount of energy on the negativity, stress, drama, and frustration that SOME people experience, to varying degrees, in their work on Burning Man. While some of the artists and administrators that were interviewed maintained a balanced and positive outlook, the bulk of them were so mired in difficulties and stressful situations that their best selves remained hidden from the camera. In addition, emotionally dramatic topics such as the 2012 ticket fiasco, the 'plug-and-play' camps, and the Occupy Wall-Street art played central roles in this film, but are not central to the spirit of Burning Man. In fact, historically, ticketing has been very well handled by the BMorg, 'plug-and-play' camps have a very minimal footprint on the overall city, and the Occupy art was a strong deviation from the status quo at Burning Man where protest art is uncommon, especially protest art that encourages emotions such as anger and animosity. I felt the choice of these topics was strange, but was hoping that later in the film we would be treated to equally compelling footage of the life-affirming, positive qualities of Burning Man.
This wasn't so. While there was certainly a substantial amount of eye-candy (HD footage of the playa and its beautiful inhabitants), these scenes were really just interludes between additional downer shots of the Occupy or PlayaSkool folks struggling on the Playa. The only redeeming thing in this film about Burning Man was Burning Man itself, with its wonderful 10 principles and guiding ideals that still managed to shine through the rather poor lens this film held up to it. If you watched this movie and felt encouraged to experience what Burning Man has to offer, then you absolutely must go, because the reality is infinitely better than this simulacrum.
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