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The Playa Film Guide
by The Judge

For those of us that come to Black Rock City every year as if it's a personal Mecca, there is a strong desire to keep the flame of happiness alight when we are part of the real world.

With that thought in mind, the following are selected movies to help keep you in the Burning Man spirit when not out on the playa.

The Beach
Here is a concept that hits close to home for me: Leonardo "DiCrapio" plays a guy who decides he's tired of his normal life and wants to go see the world. He ends up in Bangkok, Thailand. While he's there, he meets up with a visionary (euphemism for "loony") who tells him of a beach a closely guarded secret patch of paradise completely protected from the outside environment. A place where you are free from "the parasites of the world" and everything is beautiful.

He convinces a couple of like-minded adventure seekers and they head out to find this place. Sure enough, its everything the crazy guy said it was. The water is crystal clear, the sand is white, the people living there are a loving community of modern hippies (you know, same attitude but better hygiene) and the drugs are plentiful.

Is this starting to sound familiar yet?

But like most utopian dreams, reality has a way of stepping in and fucking everything up. Soon their paradise is filled with frustration, pain and drama. Hmmm. That also sounds awfully familiar.

If you can get past Leonardo and his love handles parading around, the film has a pretty good story. The music is pretty good, The locations are absolutely breathtaking and its easy to see how someone could fall in love with a concept like this.

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
What can you say about George Miller's classic post-apocalyptic movie series that hasn't already been said? This one, the third in a series that began with Mad Max and continued with The Road Warrior, helped set the standard for the bleak, dusty outlook of the future that countless films have since copied and profited from. I am sure the folks at Death Guild hold a special place in their hearts for this one and with good reason. It's well done, entertaining and just plain cool. Bartertown is a dusty stand-in for Black Rock City, and the entire film is a primer in trendy playa fashion. And besides, Tina Turner looks hot in a chainmail dress.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
If you have not seen this film, consider yourself truly lacking in some bizarre sense. This is the hilarious story of three drag queens complete with enough shimmering metallic fabric and eye shadow to cover Black Rock City. They are traveling across the Australia desert on their way to a contest, when their purple bus (named Priscilla) breaks down in the middle of the Outback. Now if you can imagine the kind of comedy a scenario like that could create, try seeing Hugo Weaving the actor who played Agent Smith from The Matrix - dressed up in fishnets and a showgirl dress. This is definitely one of the best films for illustrating the spirit of Burning Man.

Lawrence of Arabia
I was initially skeptical that something made almost 40 years ago would be able to keep my attention for the butt-numbing 3-1/2 hours of its duration. But now I fully understand why this has become the film that other epic films have been judged against. It was the winner of four Golden Globes and SEVEN Academy Awards in 1963 for Best Picture, Director, Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Music and Sound. After watching the film, I am convinced that it is simply one of the finest works of cinematic genius to ever illuminate the big screen.

Based on the autobiographical writing of British officer T.E. Lawrence during World War I, the film depicts Lawrence (played by then-unknown actor Peter O'Toole) as a lieutenant lacking any sort of military discipline whatsoever. Bored with his assignment of coloring maps for the British Army in a dimly lit headquarters building, Lawrence jumps at the opportunity to be re-assigned as an observer for an Arabian prince fighting against the Turkish army. Lawrence quickly sees just how caring and great these desert dwelling people can be and ends up rallying the various tribes together to fight the Turks and help the British turn the tide of World War I.

As far as Burning Man goes, just look at the costumes! The locations! Black Rock is an absolute playground compared to the sheer mass and environment of the Sahara desert.

Not all independent films are made by pretentious film school geeks. There are a select few filmmakers out there that can ignore all that "look at me I'm a director" bullshit and just concentrate on telling a story the way human beings have been doing for millions of years. Groove is a good example of the concept of "telling a story" without any particular message.

Written and directed by Greg Harrison, the film is actually the story of several different characters, all taking place around an underground rave in an abandoned San Francisco warehouse. Harrison knows his subject matter. Clearly a fan of the scene and familiar with all of its whimsical and intriguing stereotypes. I'm not sure what was more interesting about this movie: The actual stories, or the detail Harrison took making this film a "Raveing for Dummies" movie.

So there you go. Five films to help you better cope with the garish hell of real life when you are not living in Black Rock City. Enjoy!

2002 Piss Clear
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