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Product Overview

In 1968, two hippies hiking near Mt. Shasta in Northern California stumbled across an unlikely property for sale: an abandoned goldmine and surrounding land, 300 acres for $22,000. Fueled by contributions from The Doors, The Monkees, Frank Zappa and others, they bought the property and named it Black Bear Ranch. It quickly became the prototypical 1960s commune, with the motto "Free Land for Free People."

Utopian communities have always been a part of the United States, but in the 60's and 70's their audacious goal was to reshape the world with free love and common property -- creating a revolutionary movement that would spread to the rest of society. But utopia is different for each person, and these experiments often brought strife, jealousy and sometimes even endangered lives.

Featuring interviews with several Black Bear alumni, including actor/activist Peter Coyote, alongside a wealth of photographs and home movies, this acclaimed documentary offers a candid look into the joys and difficulties of free love, nude farming, survival in the wilderness, multiple-parent childrearing and other fascinating aspects of communal living.


Studio First Run Features
SKU 205079645
UPC 720229912839
UPC 14 00720229912839
Format DVD
Release Date 10/23/2007
Aspect Ratio
Standard  1.33:1 [4:3]
Name Berman,Jonathan
Link Search Link
Cast & Crew
Cedar Seeger - Featuring
Elliott Sharp - Original Music By
Elsa Marley - Featuring
Jonathan Berman - Director
Jonathan Berman - Writer
Jonathan Berman - Producer
Marisa Simpson - Editor
Michael Taylor - Editor
Michael Tierra - Featuring
Peter Coyote - Featuring
Tamas Bojtor, et. al. - Cinematographer
ReviewSource Seattle Times
Review Jonathan Berman's "Commune" serves a dual purpose that seems contradictory but ultimately isn't: Interviews with Black Bear's founders and current residents reveal all that's considered quaintly outmoded about the Woodstock generation, with the hippie notions associated with the psychedelic '60s. We also see that Black Bear has prevailed, despite setbacks, as long-standing proof that its ideals can thrive under sensible stewardship...In its own quiet, revealing fashion, Berman's film explores the folly and faith that characterized much of Black Bear's early existence. Without sugar-coating its history (which includes harsh winters, FBI investigations into "suspected insurrection" and the invasion of a child-worshipping cult called the Shiva Lila), Berman's efficient editing of home movies, vintage video and present-day footage adds up to a comprehensive study of a small-scale revolution that succeeded almost in spite of itself...As "New Bears" gather at the ranch, the original promise of Black Bear appears to be self-fulfilling. Only now, its idealism is tempered by the lessons of experience.
Reviewer Jeff Shannon
ReviewRating 9
ReviewSource Hollywood Report Card
Review First of all, this is an intriguing, entertaining and engaging documentary. I certainly enjoyed it...Truly, I was expecting a program that revealed the founders as those with trumped up utopian dreams that eventually crumbled into a million pieces of reality. But, even in retrospect the participants seemed to nearly only looked back nostalgically on their experience. They were all rather intellectual, introspective souls. Of course, there were times that presented big challenges to their ideals, but nothing shatteringly so. Save for, and only maybe, the tale of a commune kid who was shuffled off to live with a group of kids in India and other places around the world before returning to California and her birth parents. Her story is fascinating...Another commune kid speaks about his experience, as well. But these commune kid stories only scratch the surface. I wanted to know so much more...In fact, that is my only criticism -- I simply wanted to know so much more. What were the thoughts of the other children? What about loafers and freeloaders? I'd always thought communes would ultimately fail because only a small percentage of the participants would end up doing all of the work, while the majority freeloaded. But, this aspect is almost not mentioned in the documentary.
Reviewer Ross Anthony
ReviewRating 8
Product Attributes
Actor Berman,Jonathan
Label First Run Feature
Music Format DVD
Video Format DVD
Andrew O'Hehir, ...stands out for its ambiguity, honesty and sheer human clarity.
Greg Burk, L.A. Weekly A nice counterpoint is the soundtrack, with psychedelic trip music and bottleneck blues by noted wild-ass guitarist Elliott Sharp.
Jack Mathews, New York Daily News ...Berman's documentary about California's famous Black Bear Ranch is a trip.
Robert Koehler, Variety ...the movement in communal living that blossomed with Flower Power in the '60s gets its most honest appraisal yet on film...
Stephen Holden, The New York Times A breezy, informal history of the Black Bear Ranch...[that] offers the fascinating spectacle of observing people then and now.

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