by guest blogger Chris Gray
At the last minute I decided to attend the festival this year and these are my thoughts about my experience.
The festival itself still has that small totally cool hippie town feel. You walk into a festival put on by people who share vegetables from their gardens with each other. There is a definite Topanga vibe and if that is the experience you are looking for, this festival has it. If you want convenient parking, comfortable theater seating with great audio and video projection, this is not for you.
After looking forward to the Faith Street Corner Tavern film I was disappointed. It had lots of beautiful images, interesting characters and music but the story didn’t flow. The entire film was packed with seemingly self-indulgent rants of dialog and random shots of the main character dancing around. There is a deep touching story behind the film, but you have to exercise tremendous patience to get all the pieces. It appeared the filmmaker was so attached to all the footage and the many many songs in the film that he was unable to cut it down into a form suitable for an audience unfamiliar with the story and the main characters. The film is a passion piece showing what the artist likes. It is not a film for everyday entertainment. One audience member commented “This would be better on some good bud”. Another said she would like to use it in her work with cancer patients and hospice. Some will love it and some will hate it, I would have enjoyed the story better if it had been presented differently.
The Source Family film Undoubtedly influenced by mainstream media messages about “hippie” communes and cults, I expected a creepy film about real depravity. This movie was made primarily from film collected by a member of the Source Family and insight from actual members. It shows a full reality from within the Source Family, rather than sensationalizing only seedy aspects. It allows an intimate understanding of cults and of these particular people. Yes there was danger, pain and human damage. There was also tremendous growth, enlightenment, health and miracles. This film takes you on a trip into an extreme alternative lifestyle and it is an entertaining and interesting journey. After the film there was a question and answer session with the filmmaker and a couple members of the Source Family. This led to the entire audience standing up and participating in the Source Family’s morning star exercise. Had this been at another festival I doubt everyone would have participated, in fact it probably wouldn’t have even happened. It was another authentic Topanga experience and it was really enjoyable.
The SEA Change Panel discussion delivered everything it promised and the panelists freely offered insight and encouragement to participants regarding their individual projects afterward. It was a place of synergy for those working on creating a better world through film.
I also hung out on the patio of the Rosewood, which is an experience in itself, but to top it off, at twilight one evening a small buck sprung by on the hillside just a few feet from me. I had many intense discussions with others as passionate as I am about creating positive change in the world. Unfortunately, because of other things in my life I wasn’t able to completely tune into the Topanga Vibe. Now I know what to expect. Next year I plan to come better prepared to engage more fully in the experience of the Topanga Film Festival. Hope to see you there.