Commune is the story of Black Bear Ranch, a communal living place established on an old mining camp in 1969 with the motto “Free Land for Free People.” To pay for it, the founders simply drove to Los Angeles and knocked on the doors of famous counterculture stars like Frank Zappa to ask for money.

It worked. The idea was to create a place where people could foster a new way of living and relating to one another.

Through stock footage and dozens of interviews with people who lived at the ranch, we get a glimpse into the dreams and aspirations of that era. On the one hand, it looks like a rollicking good time: naked young people frolicking in the forest, free-love abounding, long hair, folk songs and joints wafting in the air.

Yet the documentary is honest enough to show a less pretty side to all of this. For example, the jealousies and rivalries which emerge over who is sleeping with whom. Problems arise over who is truly “free” and who is just pretending.

The visions of the ’60s to create a new world through little communities of free love is both beautiful and tragically naïve. The documentary treats the subject with honesty and tenderness, while offering valuable lessons for those who insist on dreaming of a better world.

Grade: B+

Commune is currently available.