Imagine suddenly realizing that every decision you’ve ever made in your life could be wrong. By the “default” world’s standards, the subjects in Steve Brown’s documentary have seemingly lost it all; from day job to life partner, these people come across as social rejects. But imagine going to a place and discovering your true self and purpose on earth, realizing that art, self-expression, and music are the true ethos of existence.
This place is Black Rock City, NV, where thousands gather every year to experience a life free from the confines of the “real world.” In Brown’s documentary SPARK: A Burning Man Story, he captures the intense journey of three artists each struggling with their own challenges and triumphs during the 2012 Burning Man festival.
The film follows Katy Boynton, a former nanny who has a change of heart after attending a previous Burning Man festival. Even though she was being evicted from her apartment and making extra cash by cleaning out garages on the side, Katy realizes her true passion is welding. She has no regrets about quitting her day job as she sets out to create her own piece of art for Burning Man 2012. The process of constructing the 12 foot tall piece, and leading up to it’s eventual installation, is a great story of perseverance and humbleness.
Chances are, I may never make it out to an actual Burning Man event, however, this documentary makes me feel like I’ve already been there.
Enter- Otto von Danger, a former marine, who feels betrayed by the “institutions” he risked his life to defend, and in turn, expresses his anger and frustration through art. The doc shows the construction of his brainchild, “Burn Wall Street”- large wooden buildings meant to replicate New York City’s financial district, (ex. “Bank of Un-America”) which eventually burns to the ground during one of the nights at Burning Man.
Finally, Jon La Grace is a Burning Man organizer who left his wife a few years back when he accepted that he was gay. He realized that material things in life were meaningless to him after attending Burning Man for the first time, and it’s changed his life for the better. Since then, he’s become one of the lead organizers of the theme camps as well as a fan favorite.
Brown and co-director Jessie Deeter do a great job of capturing the spirit and phenomenon that is Burning Man in SPARK: A Burning Man Story. The artists we follow along the way were perfectly selected, each are unique characters that bring to light something we as an audience member can take away once the movie’s over. Chances are, I may never make it out to an actual Burning Man event, however, this documentary makes me feel like I’ve already been there.