During the radical fervor of the early 1970s, utopian communities dotted the American landscape. They aimed to reshape the world with "free love" and common property, and they excited controversy and fear amongst local residents across the country. Though the idea of communes is now often relegated to a naive past, Berman discovers a successful and lasting, if controversial, legacy at the influential Black Bear Ranch, in Siskiyou County, California.
Premised on the idea of "Free Land for Free People," and financed by the largesse of Hollywood rock stars, the founders of Black Bear bought land deep in the wilderness and raised a rough-hewn homestead. Over the years, hundreds would join the community, and life would be complicated by conflicts about the role of women, child-rearing, proper communalist behavior, the FBI, and most traumatically, a child-snatching cult.
With archival footage from the early days, and the present-day views of Black Bear members and their offspring, COMMUNE is a revealing look at how our most basic choices about family, work, and the nature of our relationships send powerful and lasting shock waves through the fabric of society. Featuring herbalist Michael Tierra, who is credited with rediscovering Echinacea; internationally renowned painter Elsa Marley; and actor Peter Coyote.