I’m kind of a documentary film snob. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to my devout followers. At the core of this blog is a truth-seeking, information-obsessed critic who loves thought-provoking and controversial films. I really can’t get enough of them, but I’m usually terribly selective, and this sometimes makes or breaks my motivation to write a review.
I couldn’t wait to write this one.
American Commune is thought-provoking. It deals with controversial subjects (60s counterculture, etc.) It’s rich in all the characteristics a good documentary should possess, but it has something none of the others do: the power to completely disarm even the most ruthless film elitist of any and all criticism(s) within the first 10 minutes.
The Mundo sisters have brilliantly edited and narrated a haunting tale — their tale — of the intentional community; The Farm. The film is part biopic, part social documentary, and 100% affecting. For lack of a more eloquent way of expressing my emotions, I’ll just say this: I’m a fairly emotionally charged individual, but I can’t remember the last time I cried, sobbed, shook my head and wanted to hug everyone around me (and all at the same time), ever. American Commune is honest; it lacks the preachy, self-righteous, and sometimes obnoxiously impassioned point of view commonly found in the 21st cent. documentary, and sticks to what happened and why.
Just the facts.
In 1971, Nadine and Rena Mundo’s parents were among the 300 founding members of The Farm, a project led by Stephen Gaskin, and spouse (mother of “authentic midwifery”) Ina May Gaskin. The group (consisting of early 20-something “free love” seekers) travels from San Francisco to the outskirts of Nashville to set-up a completely sustainable community committed to spiritual living and self-sufficiency. The utopian socialist experiment thrived until 1985, when the farm’s income fell short of sustaining its survival. Interspersed among segments of stills, video footage and a powerfully quiet and humble narration, is the story of one family who struggles to interpret their identity among their prematurely chosen hippie existence.
American Commune is a well-researched (8 years, in fact) film that includes the use of carefully selected archival footage, as well as some enchanting 2D to 3D conversion of stills. The film triumphantly captures the enduring legacy of community.
And I personally can’t wait to see what the Mundo sisters will do next.
American Commune just celebrated its East Coast Premiere at the 14th Annual Woodstock Film Festival.