AS I'VE GROWN SOFT in my old age, my cynicism about Burning Man has taken on a sort of laissez faire/well-intentioned homophobe bent: What you do in the privacy of your 80-acre circle of desert is your business—I just don't want to have to look at it. You wanna put on your Guy Fawkes mask, take hallucinogens, and drive a Segway around a post-apocalyptic, bohemian nightmare-scape? Jah bless you. We should all be so lucky as to pinpoint our desires with such bloodcurdling specificity, let alone find a remote place to get them the fuck out of our systems. Go nuts, namaste, etc.
In honor of this attitude of magnanimity, I was awarded the enviable task of reviewing Spark: A Burning Man Story—a narrow, oblivious, superfluous documentary about the planning and execution of the festival's 2012 iteration. The film follows the trials of Black Rock City, LLC.—the founders and de facto for-profit heads of the festival—as they ineffectually attempt to maintain "authenticity," "spirit," and other platitudes in the face of their growing corporate responsibility. Three sovereign "Burners" (each white, each from the Bay Area) with big ambitions for the annual desert retreat serve as counterpoint—committing months of their lives to bad art, and reminding us all about the heartbreaking futility that is the human condition. Everybody says the word "community" like 800 times, each with an ideological opacity uncannily similar to that of an average Juggalo Gathering attendee.
To an outsider, Spark's lack of perspective is similar to the very fuel that operates Burning Man—if you're not presently washing the sand out of your face-kerchief from last week's pilgrimage, there's nothing here for you. And even if you are, with no fewer than six other Burning Man documentaries presently listed on IMDb, one of them has got to be more useful than Spark. I’m guessing. God knows I’m not going to watch another one.