COMMUNE, a provocative new feature film about a radical experiment in living, will make its Southern California premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The latest work by acclaimed documentarian Jonathan Berman, COMMUNE features a fascinating cast of characters, including herbalist Michael Tierra, who is credited with “rediscovering” echinacea; internationally renowned painter Elsa Marley; and thespian Peter Coyote.
During the radical fervor of the early 1970s, utopian communities dotted the American landscape. They aimed to reshape the world with free love and common property, and they excited controversy and fear amongst local residents across the country. Though the idea of communes is now often relegated to a “naïve” past, Berman discovers a successful and lasting, if controversial, legacy at the influential Black Bear Ranch, in Siskiyou County, California. _Premised on the idea of “Free Land for Free People,” and financed by the largesse of Hollywood rock stars, the founders of Black Bear bought land deep in the wilderness and raised a rough-hewn homestead. Over the years, hundreds would join the community, and life would be complicated by conflicts about the role of women, child-rearing, “proper” communalist behavior, the FBI, and most traumatically, a child-snatching cult. With archival footage from the early days, and the present-day views of Black Bear members and their offspring, COMMUNE is a revealing look at how our most basic choices about family, work, and the nature of our relationships send powerful and lasting shock waves through the fabric of society._Jonathan Berman’s previous films, “The Shvitz” (1994) and award-winner “My Friend Paul” (1999) have aired on Sundance Channel, PBS, Discovery, ARTE, Trio and other networks, and have screened theatrically and at numerous festivals around the world. Critics have praised Berman’s “searing celluloid portraits” as “crackling with energy” full of “swagger and style,” and “gritty and funny.” _COMMUNE:_78 minutes, 2005. In English. Color and Black and White. Prod/Director: Jonathan Berman.
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