In 1970, 1,500 hippies and their spiritual guru Stephen Gaskin founded a commune in rural Tennessee, United States. Members gave over their life savings, grew their own food, delivered their babies at home and built a self-sufficient society. Raised in this alternative community by a Jewish mother from Beverly Hills and a Puerto Rican father from the Bronx, filmmakers and sisters Rena and Nadine return for the first time since leaving in 1985. As well as facing their past after years of hiding their upbringing, they chart the rise and fall of America’s largest utopian socialist experiment and their own family tree. The nascent idealism of a community destroyed, in part, by its own idealism is reflected in the personal story of a family split apart by differences. American Commune finds inspiration in failure, humour, and most surprisingly, that community values are alive and well in the next generation.
Disobedience glances a new phase of civil disobedience movements to stop climate change by profiling some actions that are being taken throughout the world, led by regular people. Civil disobedience and direct action are at the centre of stopping the rich and powerful from destroying the planet—we actually have to stop them. Disobedience shows that profound shifts are required to deal with the climate crisis. The calling on how to act is up to you.
Do Not Resist documents, from the perspective of the police, their view of the social unrest following the shooting and killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, 2014, against a backdrop of the routine and escalating use of military tactics and high-powered weaponry by local police forces throughout the United States in the past two decades. Military equipment deployed throughout the Middle East returns home to be used against the citizenry. Local police recruitment and training is awash in military commandments backed by views of escalating ‘righteous’ violence and sadism. Meanwhile curfews are imposed, along with frivolous drug raids and incessant racial profiling. The voices of concerned citizens ignored. What is the cultural and technological trajectory here?
Two years before the Occupy movement sprang forth in New York, a small group of land-rights activists occupied a piece of disused land in west London to create an “alternative model of moneyless, sustainable living” which they labelled, the eco-village. Echoing the dynamics of hippy communes in the United States decades earlier, Grasp the Nettle follows the often bewildering and even amusing actions of this group through many moments of idyllic beauty, as they use local trees and recycled rubbish to build small homes, go dumpster diving, build a manually operated shower and compost toilet, create a local seed bank, and help distribute dumpstered sandwiches to the city’s homeless. But the eco-village quickly becomes something other than just an idealistic experiment in political protest. It begins to attract vulnerable people who already live on the margins of society and need help: the homeless, the unemployed, alcoholics, the mentally ill. Some of them are invited to stay, but others cause a ruckus and harm the group. Tensions spark as the community grapples to deal with the increasing chaos while trying to stave off the fast-approaching prospect of eviction, through the ideologies of withdrawal, dropping out, freemanism and spirtuality. Grasp the Nettle is hence a valuable reflection of the efficacy of this type of Wandervogel-style activism, where lack of goals and support infrastructure, a diverse array of internal conflicts and horizontal hostility can be the ultimate undoing of idealistic and much-needed political resistance movements.
How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change travels the globe, from New York City to the Marshall Islands and China, to meet with people who are committed to reversing the tide of global warming. The film examines the intricately woven forces that threaten the stability of the climate and the lives of the world’s inhabitants.
Introduction To Permaculture provides an overview of some practical examples of permaculture design, while following the interwoven themes of ethics, community, planning and ecology. The film follows Geoff Lawton who is a permaculture consultant, designer and teacher in Australia and throughout the world, demonstrating some of the possibilities of permaculture design and how it can transform the way we eat and live…
No Measure of Health profiles Kyle Magee, an anti-advertising activist from Melbourne, Australia, who for the past 10 years has been going out into public spaces and covering over for-profit advertising in various ways. The film is a snapshot of his latest approach, which is to black-out advertising panels in protest of the way the media system, which is funded by advertising, is dominated by for-profit interests that have taken over public spaces and discourse. Kyle’s view is that real democracy requires a democratic media system, not one funded and controlled by the rich. As this film follows Kyle on a regular day of action, he reflects on fatherhood, democracy, what drives the protest, and his struggle with depression, as we learn that “it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
In the wake of giant speculative property bubbles and high unemployment, ordinary people are occupying empty buildings in urban areas and turning them into free, open and public space. Communities thrive alongside music and art collectives, concerts, food co-operatives and community gardens. One also finds construction workshops, child care, language classes, political talks and even legal advice on social and economic rights. Okupación focuses in on such community spaces in Madrid, Spain; and follows the fight to keep such spaces alive and open.
The premise of The Age of Loneliness is of how our communities and indeed lives have been completely subsumed by capitalism, leaving us alone in tiny units, solitary. Screen culture and technology is often blamed, but this is more an extension of a larger problem. The Age of Loneliness is exacerbated by this culture making us feel like we have no purpose. How many of us know our neighbours? How many of us even know the land where we live? How has this been destroyed, usurped? What of the nuclear family? With single parents in numbers like never before and families spanning across the globe, all of this poses much larger questions about paternity and the dominant model of relationships. Consumerism and commodification also plays a central role—make note of the screens, computers, TVs and dating websites in the life of the lonely. What’s the common thread here? The Age of Loneliness is a film that spans generations, and can function as a call for all of us to reconnect with each other and the places we live for real. To turn away from the spectacle and instead build a better world, with purpose, meaning, friends and real community.
The Garden tells the story of South Central Farm — a 14 acre community garden and urban farm located in Los Angeles, California, which was in operation between 1994 and 2006. The entire lot is evicted and demolished against overwhelming local support for the farm and also despite the community raising an incredible amount of money to purchase the land from the owner. The owner refuses to sell and the land is demolished and still sits vacant, unused…
The Gruen Effect is a biographical film of Victor Gruen, considered by some to be the grand architect of the modern shopping mall and pedestrian zone. His ideas about urban planning have led to cities that serve the new gods of consumption, developing concepts that have reshaped the modern world. But in perhaps the ultimate of ironies, a naïve Gruen initially envisioned shopping centres as utopian communal spaces that would bring people together. However, developers took these ideas to brood the emergence of suburbia and the new era of consumption that would come to define the post-war world. Viewed with a critical eye, and tracing the path from Gruen’s prewar Vienna, to the 1950s America, and back to Europe in 1968, The Gruen Effect can show the themes and translation errors that have come to define intensely colonising urban life, along with a disappointed Gruen appalled at the impact shopping centres have on communities.
With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, Cuba’s economy collapsed. Imports of oil were cut by more than half and food by 80 percent. The Power Of Community tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the response during the collapse, explaining how the country transitioned from a highly mechanised, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens…