Spark: A Burning Man Story
Film Review by Kam Williams
Visually-Captivating Documentary Chronicles Annual Bohemian Gathering
Every summer, about 60,000 free-spirited fugitives of civilization descend on an empty spot in the Nevada desert and dub it Black Rock City to participate in an annual ritual known as Burning Man. The gathering basically affords a horde of artistic, ex-hippie hedonists a week of fun in the sun free from the dictates of otherwise humdrum lives divided between being stuck in stultifying suburbia and commuting to boring, corporate desk jobs.
Braving nightly windstorms and sweltering 100+ degree days, these would-be bohemians are mostly aging flower children looking to recreate the magic they once enjoyed at counter-cultural concerts like Woodstock before finally making major concessions to conformity. Here, they make the most of the opportunity to shed their societal facades (and maybe even their clothes) and to get in touch once again with their primal selves.
Not that absolutely anything goes at Burning Man. The event does have ten guidelines encouraging: “Radical Expression,” “Communal Effort” and “Gifting,” to name a few. And “Participation” is mandatory, since no spectators are allowed.
Co-directed by Steve Brown and Jessie Deeter, Spark: A Burning Man Story is a visually-captivating documentary which chronicles the goings-on at last year’s gathering. We learn that the love fest is called Burning Man because the climax of the conclave involves setting on fire a 35 foot-tall, 3,000 pound effigy of a guy.
Many attendees work on their costumes, floats and/or constructions for months prior to their arrival, much like participants in New Orleans Mardi Gras or Philly’s Mummers’ Parade. But Burning Man seems to have a distinctly anti-establishment agenda, evidenced by the torching of 70 foot-tall models of skyscrapers called “Merrill Lynched,” “Goldman Sucks” and Bank of Un-America.”
Why Occupy Wall Street when you can occupy the desert?
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 90 minutes
Distributor: Paladin Films
To see a trailer for Spark: A Burning Man Story, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0XGiOnuxO8