This film goes behind the scenes at Burning Man - exploring the philosophy that fuels it, the tireless efforts that drive it, and the transcendent experience that makes it a worldwide cultural force. Beyond Black Rock is the first documentary to fully chronicle the planning and preparation required to conduct the Burning Man festival on an annual basis, and how this commitment serves as a binding force for a world-wide, year-round community. This film features key members of the organization and profiles the various departments involved producing the event. It also follows several artists as they take their projects from concept to completion, exploring the unique philosophy of "temporary art" and the significant hurdles in creating, transporting and sharing the hundreds of art projects that adorn the playa and contribute to the cultural tapestry of Black Rock City. This double-sided DVD has a 106 minute main feature and another 2 hours of additional material, including extended interviews, outtakes and deleted scenes, all of which provide a large body of detail and information. Scholars, researchers and burners around the world will find Beyond Black Rock the most comprehensive coverage of Burning Man to date.
Depending on one's point of view, the event detailed in Burning Man - Beyond Black Rock is either a magnificent, life-transforming experience or an excuse for a bunch of drug-ridden oddballs to broast their dust-coated, scantily- (or un-)clad bodies on a scorching, inhospitable expanse of terrain in the middle of the Nevada nowhere. Given that this two-sided, extra-laden disc is proffered as an "official documentary," no one should be surprised that it embraces the former opinion. As director Damon Brown's film shows us, Burning Man (so named for the giant wooden sculpture that's set on fire on the final night) is not a concert, although there's plenty of music; it's not an exhibit, although there are many, many artists and a dizzying array of their works on hand; and it's not a festival, although a good time appears to be had by almost all. Above all, Burning Man is a phenomenon, as for one week every summer the Black Rock Desert becomes the fifth largest city in the state, home to well over 30,000 folks who create what some call "another reality." None of this happens without a good deal of work. As the film chronicles the preparations for the 2003 event, we see that an enormous amount of technical and logistical details are involved, including laying out the roads and boundaries of the "city," bringing in electrical power, dealing with local regulations (among which is the mandate that with the possible exception of a few footprints, every piece of evidence that Burning Man was ever there must be erased when it's over), and other infrastructural particulars. We meet some of the three thousand employees who labor year-round to keep it going (including founder-director Larry Harvey, who staged the first Burning Man for about 250 people in 1990), as well as a few of the participating artists ("temple builder" David Best designs an enormous structure every single year), and, of course, many of the participants. We visit "theme camps" and art installations, witness various amusements and ingenious contraptions, and listen to folks trying to explain not only what Burning Man is but what it means. Hours of bonus material (outtakes, extended interviews, deleted scenes, etc.) will help you draw your own conclusions. --Sam Graham