Review: Spark: A Burning Man Story (2013)

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Spark: A Burning Man Story tells the intimate story behind the festival, its creators, its contributors and the events that finally take place every year in the middle of nowhere.

Directed by: Steve Brown, Jessie Deeter.

Country: United States

Genre: Documentary.

Running time: 91 minutes.

There are no limits as to what art can accomplish and what can ultimately express in its final form. It’s a fundamental statement with which we can justify the evolution of artistic ventures, the obstacles found in the way, and the overcoming of all. This celebration marks the end of chapters, and the beginning of others.

Burning Man is “something” that takes place every year in one of the most desolate places in the world. For one week, Black Rock Desert, Nevada, becomes Black Rock City, the venue for a mysterious gathering of sorts. Since 1989, a group of artists and designers has put together several variations of this festival. It all started with a small group burning a wooden statue in Baker Beach, and decades later, it has become a celebration of art and expression, where “limitations” is just a fancy word.

The documentary Spark: A Burning Man Story tells the fascinating story of how it all came together, and how it still goes on with a few variations. Burning Man is based on ten principles that make it a curious form of utopia; some of those principles are gifting, decommodification, “leave no trace”. This has always worked, but at some point anarchy ensued and the “free for all” aspect of the festival was lost. Evolving made them more aware of necessary safety issues and general guidelines for organizing ticket sales. This was the festival that at some point, tried to implement a lottery system as the potential attendees surpassed the established limits. Yes, it’s some sort of organized utopia.

Nevertheless, Spark: A Burning Man Story also tells the story of why Burning Man remains essential for some, and a dream for those who haven’t yet attended a version of the festival. It’s freedom at its best. It’s expression with no limits. It’s the fundamental objective of art being materialized for no reasons. The word “revenue” is practically a curse word in this plethora of people trying to be as absurd as possible, but ultimately themselves in a society where scrutiny is part of culture. At the beginning, it’s almost impossible to understand why some artists have the need to go there. Everything costs money, effort is grand. But there’s a mind bending realization that takes place at the end, when we feel part of this accomplishment, that incites the viewer to be part of the experience and accept all the rules that have been broken and all the risks that have been forgotten. It’s not about the burning of a large wooden statue. It’s about the acceptance of oneself, the destruction of boundaries, the overcoming of an obstacle represented by concrete, currencies, and politics. There are none of those in the seven days of fantasy that Burning Man represents.

There’s general ignorance as to why Burning Man exists. I’m pretty sure about it, since there’s little information about the insides of the festival. It has barely been extended to some other countries and experimentation often takes too long. But it’s quite interesting to know something like this exists. It’s been somehow damaged by the whole “elitism” of the attendance structure, and the necessary hierarchy in the organization sphere. But I believe the fundamentals remain: In Black Rock City, you can be yourself and will not be judged for seven days. Now, wouldn’t you pay for something like that?

Rating:

A trailer

With information from WIkipedia.

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