For the past two weeks I have been at an anonymous commune in Northern California. I was given the opportunity to film with the understanding that I do not name the actual commune, thus we will call it, “The Ranch”. The commune began in about 1968. It was one of the original “Hippie” communes and I understand it used to be a training ground for the Black Panthers. There is an excellent book about it that has been out of print for 30 years called “January Thaw”.
There were many philosophically and politically minded people, most were transient. It was very different from the structure that I found at Alpha Farm in Deadwood, Oregon. There really is no structure at the Ranch only guidelines it seems. The motto is “Free Land, Free People”. This community is like a school and an ongoing experiment that began in the 60’s. A group can honestly test how life and a society can run itself in different ways. I think the people that started this commune occasionally look at it and laugh, thinking about how they have been through every thing all those kids are dealing with.
As more people became okay with being filmed, many of the people who were against it at first came around to being interviewed. There were a few anarchists that wanted nothing to do with the camera, although a few of them did get interviewed with masks on. There is a wall of security amongst some anarchists, and it is difficult to get access…. hell, its difficult to even come around and not get my camera smashed.
I learned a great lesson; do not film when people are drinking heavily. Every time I tried I came into an argument. The second time it happened, the argument escalated until a man was screaming “You need to pack your shit and get out of this commune right now!” The next day, we had to have a “feelings meeting” because we had spent the entire night screaming at each other and we woke up half the commune. We came to a clear understanding of how it all happened and I see where I made my mistake. Since then, we have laughed about the whole scenario.
Right now I am in San Fran with and I am about to film a squat called “Fancy House” in Oakland. I know that Oakland has had issues with police brutality, but I never understood how much animosity the people of Oakland had towards the police until last night. The conversation was bitter and I could not get people to agree that perhaps at least 1% of police have good ethics and want to make a safe and better society. We talked a bit about the Oscar Grant case.