Movie Reviews

REVIEW – ‘Spark: A Burning Man Story’ doesn’t quite start a fire.

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: If you listen to the Drinks and Discourse podcast, you know about Matt “Surly” Summerfield and his affinity for documentaries. He’s not a huge fan of writing, but was gracious enough to do a guest review for us this week.]

As a huge fan of documentaries and the only member of our staff attending Burning Man this year, it seemed natural that I be the one to review Spark: A Burning Man Story. During the 112-minute runtime I was constantly in awe of stunning visuals captured from the festival grounds called Black Rock City. Then came the stories they tried to tell: the story of the event itself and how a small group of San Francisco artists started it all, the story of two artists and their installations which had to be created, transported, and setup in the middle of nowhere, the story of a man who, for a small fee, will give you everything you need to survive Burning Man without having to do any of the preparation.

You might be saying to yourself “That sounds rather interesting. Doesn’t seem like a bad documentary to me.” Unfortunately, the stories never go any deeper than the few sentences you just read. Perhaps due to time, perhaps due to access, only the surface is every scratched, and you are never given a sense of closure to any of the situations that unfold. Any one of the storylines would have made a great doc on their own, but instead we are constantly jumping from place to place and person to person. Maybe the unfocused nature of the film is a meta characterization of the festival itself… or maybe… do you hear that? Sounds like music…

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FADE TO BLACK

FADE IN – EXTERNAL – BLACK ROCK CITY – DAY

INSERT MUSIC – EASTERN EUROPEAN DJ – MAXIMUM WUBZ

AERIAL SHOT OF CROWDS

SLOW MOTION SHOT OF GIRL HULA HOOPING

TIME-LAPSE OF ART INSTALLATION

SHOTS OF DUST STORMS

FADE TO BLACK

Scenes like the series of events listed above happen far too often to make Spark a true documentary. Instead, what we’re left with is a hybrid documentary/music video, a really good music video that will leave you longing to experience Burning Man for yourself. Watch as strange art cars breathe fire and zip around the playa. Marvel at huge four story sculptures that have people climbing all over them. Take off from Burning Man’s own airport (FAA Identifier 88NV) and skydive back to the festival grounds. See the final moments of the festival as 60,000 people gather in near silence to see the man burn. As I watched these scenes, I couldn’t help but get excited that I would be seeing all of these events unfold for myself in a little over a week.

Burning Man 2012

Is this a great film? No. Is it a bad film? No. Mostly, it treads in a strange middle ground, never getting deep enough to really have substance but always willing to fill the void with gorgeous eye candy. If you have, will, or are thinking about attending Burning Man you definitely owe it to yourself to see this film. If not, I’d say skip Spark, because you’d probably enjoy something else more. Overall, I give it three out of five… oh no… here we go again…

FADE TO BLACK

FADE IN – EXTERNAL –BLACK ROCK CITY – MORNING SUNRISE

INSERT MUSIC –– THE BUILD UP…

A MAN RIDES HIS BIKE ALONE, BACKLIT BY THE MORNING SUN

INSERT MUSIC –– …SICK DROP

CREDITS

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