Commune | Chicago Reader


78 minutes 2005

The commune at Black Bear Ranch in Siskiyou County, California, is almost 40 years old, and its founders are long enough in the tooth to measure the effect that living there had on their lives. This engrossing 2005 documentary by Jonathan Berman is largely a generational study, contrasting home-movie footage of the lithe and frequently nude young radicals with interview sequences in which the same people, now craggy and overweight, stoutly defend the principles of sharing and working the land. More vexing issues emerge around the rearing of children: many of the original founders left in the late 70s to find schools for their kids, and a child-worshipping cult that installed itself on the grounds had to be driven out despite the commune's ethic of inclusiveness. The young people now inhabiting the commune are seen but not heard, which denies the film a much-needed perspective on all the nostalgia.

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