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If the mention of Burning Man evokes visions of lascivious hippies schnockered on day-glo cocktails of psychedelics and tequila while approximating pagan rituals on a Mad Max kind of Vegas Strip somewhere in the middle of the desert, you aren’t alone.

You aren’t wrong, either.

You see, just as the stereotype of the sun worshipping, burrito-sated, skateboard-toting, IPA-guzzling, epicurean San Diegan is only partly true, so too is there a bustling metropolis beneath the Black Rock Desert’s fine dust coating which surpasses simple carnal pleasures, free booze, and fire breathing steampunk octopus vehicles.

A genuine brand of culture goes big and goes "home" for the week-long Nevada arts and music festival — a culture of, among other things, radical expression, radical inclusion, participation, and decommodification — and the San Diego Burning Man Film Festival (March 10) wants you to see it, even if it seems a little weird.

“There are a lot of misconceptions, half-truths, and selective vision,” Meg King, volunteer media and PR lead for the San Diego Burning Man Film Festival, says of the 26-years-and-running gathering that will draw over 50,000 people to the remote desert northeast of Reno this summer.

“We look at it like an outreach event,” says Nicole Hickman, a regional Burning Man contact. “This is a way for people who are interested in learning more about Burning Man and all they’ve heard is that people run around naked all the time and do drugs constantly and have sex out in the open with everybody watching. Well, there’s certainly no denial involved in the film festival, but it’s also a way to highlight the arts, the participatory culture, the gifting community, and, as much as possible, the whole culture that Burning Man has become rather than just the eye candy and fun wacky stuff that most people think of.”

Having debuted in 2010 with a sold-out showing at the Museum of Photographic Arts, the festival landed last year at the Hazard Center UltraStar Cinemas.

This year’s festival will take place at the recently refurbished Victory Theater in Grant Hill (2558 Imperial Avenue) and features 12 films focusing on aspects of Burning Man including art, an Airstream RV village, the Burner Without Borders volunteer group (which got its start in the New Orleans reconstruction effort), and gifting culture.

“This is different from our regional events or the playa [the flat expanse of desert where Burning Man is held] itself, where you can’t just buy a day pass and check out the groovy art and take off,” says Hickman. “You’re there and participating in the culture. So the Burning Man Film Festival is one of the few ways that people can come and not have to be participatory in the sense that the other events require.”

“We want people to come to the film festival, even if they think they don’t ‘get it,’” says King.

“People come away with a different idea of what Burning Man is all about,” says Hickman, who’s had a handful of people tell her that they discovered the local Burning Man community via the film festival. “That to me is one of the most important things about the festival.”

In addition to films, anticipate artisans, music, circus, dance, and hoop performances at the 3rd annual San Diego Burning Man Film Festival.

Tickets available online.

3rd annual San Diego Burning Man Film Festival

Victory Theater - 2558 Imperial Avenue – Grant Hill

Saturday, March 10

Listing from SDBMFF website:

Airstreams in The Sun

2004 (21 mins) – James E. Moriarty

Burnstream Court is a quintessential “trailer park” with an Airstream theme. Airstreams from the 1940’s to the present travel across the US to create their shiny courtyard community at Burning Man.

Aspiring to re-create the great caravan philosophy of Wally Byam in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but instead of Africa or India their destination is northern Nevada, where the ultimate trailer park in the suburbs of Black Rock City emerges as Burnstream Court.

The Art of Burning Man

2002 (9 mins) – Karie Henderson

A time capsule featuring notable art installations, including interviews with the artists who take on the impossible task of creating these memorable efforts which help define the eye-opening environment that is Burning Man.

The Art Of Burning Man features early art exposes of Craig Duff, Dan Das Mann, Daniel Rozenberg, Jeremy Lutes, John Behrens, Maurizio Benazzo and Michael Christian.

Back to the Burn

2005 (27 mins) – Sunny Minedew

Back to the Burn offers an overview of the integral components of Black Rock City: community services, art cars, art installations, theme camps, and the Man Base. The film explores the significance of the 2005 “Psyche” art theme and offers a close look at the Temple of Dreams.

Features David Best explaining the significance of the temples to community building. DPW Manager Tony “Coyote” Perez offers insight into the unique layout and construction of Black Rock City. Contains nudity.

Burn on the Bayou

2008 (56 mins) – Matt Leonard

At the end of August 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts devastating over 90,000 square miles and causing $120 billion in damage. 2000 miles away, a group of volunteers emerged from an event in the Nevada desert.

Well-suited for helping in a harsh environment where the normal infrastructure had washed a way, the group that converged in Biloxi and Perlington, Mississippi had one thing in common: Burning Man. This film was produced by Marian Goodell, Tom Price, Andie Grace, K and M Films, NZane Productions.

Dust Devils

2003 (45 mins) – Dearbhla Glynn & Aprile Blake

Capturing three consecutive years of Burning Man from 2001 to 2003, Dust Devils is a film by two Irish women who capture the wonderful swirling columns of dust created by the intense heat of the 2002 Temple burn.

Through many interviews, this film illustrates the colorful energy and activity of Center Cafe while offering extensive coverage of artist David Best and the first Temple Burn.

The Eye of Rudra

2000 (85 mins) – Dean Mermell

In February of 1998, planning began on the Temple of Rudra, a ritual opera with over 300 people that was performed in the Nevada desert.

The Eye of Rudra chronicles this project from inception through its single performance, revealing in the process a slice of “chaos culture” and shows a timeless and passionate desire to rise above the mediocrity of modern life.

Folding Time & Space at Burning Man

2004 (8 mins) – Robert Henrikson and Timothy Childs

Conceived and directed by Robert Henrikson and Timothy Childs, Folding Time is a time-lapse photo/video panorama of the building of Black Rock City.

Encompassing two points of view, this short film demonstrates the building of The Man and the Center Cafe in 2004.

Gifting It

2002 (75 mins) – Renea Roberts

Gifting It is a meditative piece that explores one aspect of the Burning Man festival that makes it different in our world: its resistance to be commodified.

On the playa, things are different. You can make your own unique mold and be different as well. If you decide you’d like to take it with you, well – there’s no charge.

Juicy Danger Meets Burning Man

1998 (54 mins) – David Vaisbord

Featuring Tom Comet (formerly of Jim Rose Sideshow) and Christine Taylor, a Vancouver one-woman carnival. The Juicy Danger Show is an underground circus act named for its sexy blend of humor, bursting watermelons, flailing chainsaws, and lots more.

Filmed at Burning Man 1997, this documentary holds nothing back in showing the raw danger in the youthful years of the event. The film also details the real-life love story between Comet & Taylor, and their personal experiences at the event. Highly Recommended!

The Temple Builder

2006 (55 mins) – Dearbhla Glynn and Aprile Blake

An intimate look at the life and work of artist David Best. Best is widely known for the ornate temples he and his crew built for the Burning Man festivals and in the cities of San Rafael and Detroit. These communal art projects, Best explains, are “tributes for people we have all lost.” With his use of such themes as “giving back” and the creation of “public art.”

The artist uses personal narratives to highlight tenet's that are central to his life's work. Informative and entertaining the film features interviews with the artist's family, temple crews as well as presenting stunning footage of Best's mobile art and temple projects.

Ultimate Journey

2007 (27 Mins) – Sunny Minedew

The Black Rock Burner Hostel in Reno, NV is a first stop for many international and domestic travelers making the trek to Burning Man. Founder Fred “Hagey” Hagemeister and his cohorts maintain an atmosphere of fun as they mentor new burners on community values, building infrastructure, and acclimating to the Nevada desert.

Ultimate Journey follows over 150 Black Rock Burner Hostel participants as they prepare for, then enjoy the Burning Man 2007 “Green Man” theme event.

Voyage in Utopia

2007 (83 mins) – Laurent Le Gall

With a strong emphasis on founder Larry Harvey and temple artist David Best, this film about Burning Man 2002 expresses the scale and power of the Burning Man experience. Superb cinematography and editing are combined to make this is one of the most moving Burning Man videos ever produced.

“Voyage in Utopia is a remarkable piece of story telling. It does what our event is said to do: it evokes the inexpressible, it invites imagination to inhabit the unknown.” – Larry Harvey

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Scott Marks Feb. 26, 2012 @ 12:41 a.m.

This festival is news to me. Thanks for helping to try and get sun-baked San Diegans to go out and see something that isn't mainstream!


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