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Free Spirits (2007)

98 min  |  Documentary

Free Spirits" documents the unusual 20-year history of the Brotherhood of the Spirit/Renaissance Community, focusing primarily on its mercurial leader, Michael Metelica Rapunzel. When high school and Hell's Angels dropout Michael Metelica and eight hungry teen-aged friends retreated to a rural Massachusetts tree house in 1968, they never imagined it would grow into one of the largest, most controversial New Age communes of the 1960s and 70s. At its peak in the mid 1970s, it grew to 400 full-time members, with real estate in four Massachusetts towns, an airplane, national rock band (Spirit in Flesh), and a million dollar a year income. Many stayed a decade or longer, committing their youth, sweat, and worldly possessions to creating an example of brotherhood and spiritual awareness they hoped would serve as a model for the world. "60 Minutes," "People Magazine," "Look," "The New York Times," "Wall Street Journal," "National Geographic" and countless other media came calling on this outlandish group of young people whose belief in their cause was only exceeded by their disdain for the norms of contemporary society. For some members, their time there was to be the highlight of their lives, filled with humor, danger, intense personal and spiritual growth, and daily absurdity. For others, it became a cultish nightmare. Their story, as told in "Free Spirits," reflected the 1960s generation, as they survived the intense hostility of the towns around them - fire-bombings, the brutal murder of an eighteen year old member - only to fall because of internal pressures, not the least of which were the changes in their founder and leader, Michael Metelica Rapunzel.

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T. Dan Smith (1987)

85 min  |  Documentary, Drama

An experimental mix of thriller and documentary, subtitled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Utopia, the film explores the scandal that centred on the 1960s Leader of Newcastle City Council, The Mouth of the Tyne, who was sentenced to five years imprisonment in 1971 for corruption. Undoubtedly a dynamic and visionary politician, Smith handled the Public Relations affairs of architect John Poulson, who won building design contracts by bribing City Councillors. Made over a two year period, in close collaboration with Smith himself, it reveals a complex depth to the man, and raises questions about PR, parliamentary consultancies, and the hidden, informal power structure that ties in businessmen with politicians, both local and national. Two journalists interview Smith and other key players, exploring and interrogating the story of the Trotskyists in Newcastle City Council, the claims of MI5 collusion, cover-up for cabinet ministers and the unseen role of the Privy Council as a power above parliament. Meanwhile, across the city, Jack Cross, a builder, meets with the local Tory MP and the Labour Leader of the Council to try and keep the lid on a scandal that will ruin all of them. The fictional story centres on a high rise block, jerry-built and crumbling after only fifteen years. As this parallel drama of double-dealing and deceit unfolds, it becomes clear that things are little changed since Dan Smith himself enjoyed easy access to the shadowy world of the Establishment's informal and illicit operations. Indeed, Smith makes it clear to the investigating journalists, that in his opinion, what he was imprisoned for has been made easier and become more widespread than ever before.

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The Big Fix (1978)

108 min  |  Comedy, Mystery, Thriller

In Los Angeles, Moses Wine, who was part of the counter-culture of the late 1960s at UC-Berkeley, still has those radical feelings but no longer does anything about them. His wife Suzanne, who has transformed from a 1960s hippie to a 1970s new-ageist, divorced him when his law school background didn't materialize into the upper middle class liberal life she was expecting, she having sole custody of their two young sons, with Moses having visitation rights. Moses fell into work as a private investigator of the gumshoe variety, which usually doesn't cover his monthly child support payments. After not seeing her for ten years, Moses is contacted by Lila Shea, an old girlfriend from Berkeley, to do some investigative work on behalf of her boss, Sam Sebastian, the Southern California coordinator for the gubernatorial campaign of Congressman Miles Hawthorne. Lila felt Moses would be well suited to the job because of running within "the" crowd at Berkeley, even if only knowing the main players by name and reputation. Flyers have been circulating with a doctored photo of Hawthorne and Howard Eppis in a friendly embrace, Eppis who in the late 1960s was part of the California 4 - the other three being Michael and Wendy Linker, and Luis Vasquez - an anti-establishment group convicted of several counts related to their work against the government. While the Linkers are behind bars probably for the rest of their lives, Luis Vasquez is a free man working for the rights of Mexican laborers, while Eppis has been a fugitive ever since, the authorities who are still looking for him. The flyers, which contain extreme socialist rhetoric and an implication of Hawthorne welcoming Eppis' endorsement, have the potential to derail Hawthorne's campaign. Moses is tasked with finding out who is behind the flyers - the most obvious being the campaign of Hawthorne's competitor, Senator Dillworthy - and if it is indeed not Eppis, why they would have specifically used Eppis' name. Moses accepts the job despite not endorsing Hawthorne - or Dillworthy for that matter - he equating Hawthorne's excitement factor to watching paint dry. The further Moses and Lila get into the investigation, the number of unanswered questions they have grows, and the more people who were associated with Eppis at the time cannot be located, including Oscar Procari, Jr., who funded the California 4's defense probably to spite his industrialist father. With the many trails, Moses and Lila still believe finding Eppis would answer many questions. All the while, Moses tries to rekindle a relationship with Lila. The investigation ends up having a change of focus with the potential for deadly violence on multiple levels and when incidents makes it personal to Moses.

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