The West Hollywood Aesthetics & Politics (WHAP!) series, co-presented by the city of West Hollywood and CalArts’ School of Critical Studies’ Aesthetics and Politics Program, continues its Spring 2013 season tonight (8 pm) with a screening of writer-performer Mady Schutzman’s experimental film essay Dear Comrade.
Schutzman, assistant dean of CalArts’ School of Critical Studies, documents the story of Llano del Rio, a noted socialist “utopian” colony that existed from 1914 through 1918 in California’s Antelope Valley (about an hour’s drive northeast of Valencia). Founded by Job Harriman, a minister-turned-lawyer and socialist, Llano became one of the most important non-religious communitarian experiments in the Western U.S. What began with five families grew into a community of more than 1,000 members. After only four years in California, the residents relocated to New Llano (aka Leesville), Louisiana, where the colony continued until 1937.
The 55-minute film combines traditional documentary narrative techniques—including the exploration of Llano’s California ruins, the usage of photos, and the recollections of scholars, local historians and former colonists—with more experimental approaches.
From the film’s program notes:
The filmmaker stages surreal re-enactments of life at Llano performed by reunited members of a 1970s collective to which she belonged, and casts her elderly aunt, a 1950s Borscht Belt communitarian as a former Llano colonist. We enter the plot of an 1888 “utopian” novel that inspired Llano founders, and meet a timeless nomad who roams through the universes of the film as a displaced but hopeful narrator.
Through the intersection of stories, a seemingly traditional documentary film morphs into a montage of parallel universes, historical re-enactments, clownery, political commentary, and a palpable desire—failings and disappointments notwithstanding—to give idealism and cooperation another try.
A Q&A with Schutzman and Martín Plot of CalArts’ Aesthetic and Politics Program follows the screening.
Film Screening: Mady Schutzman’s Dear Comrade
West Hollywood Library Community Room
625 N. San Vicente Boulevard, West Hollywood
Tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 27