The Birth of Burning Man

FILM: Dust and Illusions:

As far as pure counterculture is concerned, few events balance popularity with cultural cachet like the Burning Man festival. Every year, thousands of artists, hedonists and general weirdos gather in the Black Rock desert for a week of almost-anything-goes celebration and creativity.

Examining that sort of event objectively is no easy task, but director Oliver Bonin manages just that in Dust and Illusions. Neither a slavish insider mash note nor a reactionary condemnation, Bonin’s film is an even-handed look at the festival’s modest West coast origins, its inspired move to the desert and the increasing sort-of-commercialization that has made longtime festivalgoers wary. Interview subjects include festival founders and longtime attendees, and though many of them have either severed their ties with the festival or bemoan the passing of its glory days, all still acknowledge that even a watered-down version of the fest is still a unique experience — a thesis that’s fully supported by amazing footage of the artwork and pyrotechnics that briefly dominate the desert landscape.

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