Burning Man is a phenomenon that is held in the deserts of Black Rock, Nevada, 100 miles north of Reno. In 1990, 80 people were in attendance; last year’s attendance rose to 36,500. It is a gathering of artists and like-minded individuals who come to express themselves and their creativity at a weeklong Brigadoon that vanishes back into the desert without a trace to ensure that the Bureau of Land Management will allow them to return. The event culminates in the burning of a wooden sculpture of a man that has ranged in height from 40 to 80 feet over the years.
From the outside, the festival sounds like some hippie, freak fest filled with sex and drugs, and while there’s no denying that does take place on some scale, Burning Man is much more than the party. It’s a serious endeavor with the logistics of a city; Black Rock City, as the area is known, becomes the fifth biggest city in Nevada. One of their mottos is “No Spectators” because they want everyone to participate in and add to the experience.
The filmmakers were granted access to many of those involved with the creation of the event as it led up to the 2003 Burning Man. They reveal the enormous effort that goes into creating this temporary artistic community. Some participating artists, such as David Best who creates very large pieces, also added their voices because many start planning their projects the day Burning Man ends and work on it up to the event.
Although contrary to the motto, the DVD allows the viewer to be a spectator, but it can only provide a brief glimpse and understanding into this world. Some of the sights captured look fantastic and the revelers are having a great time, but to truly understand Burning Man, all your senses need to be engulfed by the event. Some scenes are cut to quickly when they needed to linger, allowing them to soak in.