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Drop City 2012


Distributed by Seventh Art Releasing, 1614 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046; 323-845-1455
Produced by Joan Grossman and Tom McCourt
Directed by Joan Grossman
DVD , color, with b&w sequences, 82 min.

Sr. High - General Adult
Artists, Colorado, Geodesic Domes

Date Entered: 09/09/2014

Reviewed by Barbara J. Walter, Longmont Public Library, Longmont, CO

I've always been fascinated with the 1960s. I always felt that the counterculture was misrepresented in a reductive way, as being just "sex and drugs and rock and roll." I love the way the story points to some of the really deep thinking and innovation that I think was also a key piece of what the counterculture of the era was. -- Joan Grossman, from an interview in Denver Westword blog 2/27/13

In 1965, disillusioned by the escalating conflict in Vietnam as well as the wastefulness of American consumer culture, three college students in Kansas pulled up stakes, purchased land in rural southern Colorado and began a quest to live a different life, one without rules or guidelines, to build something out of nothing together.

Director Joan Grossman brings their experimental community, Drop City, vibrantly to life mainly through interviews with founders Gene Bernofsky, his wife Jo Ann, his former college roommate and fellow artist Clark Richert, plus friends—and friends of friends—who joined their community, and neighbors from nearby Trinidad, Colorado.

Drop City flourished for a time thanks to its founders' willingness to embrace a minimalist lifestyle, to work hard and make do. Grossman employs archival footage and stills, animated sequences, home movies and photos to document the construction of Drop City—a thoroughly unique assortment of geodesic domes and “zomes” (inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s ideas and fractal geometry) made of scrounged materials, built by “Droppers” lacking building experience but blessed with an abundance of time, determination and a figure-it-out-as-you-go approach.

It was a radical exercise in communal living; Droppers held their land, money, vehicles, food and even clothing in common. And it was not without its share of problems: division of labor fell along very traditional lines—men built and made art while women cleaned house, cooked meals and cared for children; they were chronically short of money and relied on food stamps to feed themselves, though some considered it one small way to divert government funds away from the despised “war machine;” they suffered from power struggles within the community as well as from outsiders' assumptions about them.

Many outsiders assumed, for instance, that the “drop” in Drop City referred to dropping acid. Hundreds of them flocked to Drop City in the “Summer of Love” (1967) to “drop out,” bringing with them huge drug problems the community was not equipped to handle. Media attention grew, creating a fishbowl atmosphere in the community; soon some of its original members found life there unbearable. Drop City began to unravel, and by the mid-1970s the first rural commune of the 1960s was a ghost town.

Drop City is appropriate for academic libraries supporting programs in the visual arts, environmental and architectural design, as well as survey courses on American counterculture of the 1960s. No special features or chapter divisions, though the disc reviewed was marked “for preview purposes only.”