Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2019 8:34 pm 
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A millionaire toys with starting cults, for fun

This film records/promotes a second San Francisco-based secret society (McCall's 2013 The Institute focuses on the earlier Jejune Institute). It was started by a Silicon Valley millionaire called Jeff Hull and appealed to cyber types and perhaps "Burners" (denizens of the now huge annual - but also year-long event in the desert of Nevada, which describes itself as a "temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance"). After gathering several thousand members it folded due to lack of funds - or perhaps to its own shallowness, since it seems composed mainly of a lot of pseudo-mysterious hocus-pocus with little substance other than some fun, inventive paraphernalia and costumes, escape from social media, a bit of risk, and alcohol.

One member would recruit another, insisting on absolute secrecy, with a credit-card-like device gaining entry to a small hall of blank books like a shrine, thence leading to a treasure hunt around town, in turn leading to events up in Mendocino. Lots of complementary drinks were always provided, one of the reasons the free ride had to end. The operation was shut down when members balked at the idea of a $35 monthly fee. But some of the participants think its spirit lives on in a sense of "mystery" and "magic" they learned to carry on somehow into their lives. People make do with what they're given; with what they have left.

Some former members describe their experiences. The rich visuals give away the fact that the filmmaker was not just an observer but some kind of insider. Being as much artifact as documentation adds to the charm of the piece; but you need to look up "the Latitude Society" elsewhere for clearer-eyed, more thorough accounts. Lydia Laurenson gives a detailed one here.

In Bright Axiom. 90 mins., debuted Jun. 7 2019 (SF DocFest). Shown in DOCNYV Nov. 7, 2019.

┬ęChris Knipp. Blog:

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