During the radical fervor of the late 1960s and early 1970s, utopian communities dotted the country. They aimed to reshape the world with free love and common property, and they conjured up wariness and fear amongst the local, often rural, neighbors. Though the idea of communes is now often relegated to a naive past, Commune 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 a rural, abandoned gold mine and raised a rough-hewn homestead. Soon the fragile bonds of human connection became frayed, especially when the group discovered that each person had a totally different idea of what utopia might look like ... and that "free love" wasn't so free after all.
Over the years, hundreds joined the community, and life would be complicated by growing conflicts about the role of women, child-rearing, proper communalist behavior, the FBI, and most traumatically, a cult. With archival footage and the candid 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 relationships can send powerful and lasting shock waves through the fabric of communities, nations, and the world.
This program is not currently scheduled for broadcast.
Read more about Jonathan Berman, filmmaker of Commune.
Commune: Crew & Credits
Producer and Director
Aaron Marley and family
Andy Getz and Sharon
Hoss Bennett and Earl
Karuna and Allegra
The Residents of Fairview House
Mahaj and Cedar
Malcolm and Susan
Sara and Rex
Shem, Natasha, Ethan, Erica
Black Bear Ranch
Siskiyou Daily News
Salmon River Restoration Council
Siskiyou Historical Society
By Robert Kramer and John Douglas
The Tribal Vision Archive (c. 1968)
Courtesy of Loren Sears
Summer '68 (1968)
Directed by Newsreel
Courtesy of Roz Payne
Feel My Pulse (1928)
Directed by Gregory La Cava
Peter Coyote in Main Line (2004) aka Shadow of Fear
Courtesy of Millennium Films and Two Sticks Productions
All songs written and performed by Elliott Sharp
Except New Day Coming, performed by the Lilies
The Ballad of Cedar and Mahaj
Written and performed by Cedar Seeger
Also on KQED.org this week ...
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Enter the New "ImageMakers" Screening Room
Enjoy films from present and past seasons of KQED's short independent film series, divided into Animation, Comedy, Drama, and Suspense.