Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 9 years old.

See a preview of this Truly CA episode.

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.