In most cases, people who regularly talk about Burning Man generally fall into four camps: people who have attended Burning Man and are obsessed with the transformative experience of the thing, people who went to Burning Man and hated it but still want to remind everyone that they went to Burning Man, dreamy-eyed college students who reeeeeaaallllyyyy want to go to Burning Man but, like, just need people to go with, and people who have never been to Burning Man but write eye-rolling blogs about it. But, whether due to the inherent weirdness of much of the experience, the intense visuals or the chance to exploit people on drugs, people also really love making documentaries about Burning Man. And you, too, can see the latest salute to the neon-and-nudity fantasyland at South By Southwest when Steve Brown and Jessie Deeter (Who Killed the Electric Car?) premiere Spark: A Burning Man Story, a behind-the-scenes look at the festival, focusing on organizers and repeat participants, and how their ideals and festival perceptions have shifted over time. One woman describes how the festival compelled her to learn how to weld; a gentleman with a beard extols Black Rock Desert as "a great venue to build giant stuff and blow it up."
This is hardly the first documentary that has gone behind the scenes or given outsiders a look at the gonzo civilization of Black Rock—Damon Brown released Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock in 2005 and followed the organizers, artists and participants for 18 months, from first-drawn plans to the final ember. But Spark, at least from first glance, not only has time and the dramatic increase in magnitude of the festival over time to contend with, but seems more about the physical, emotional and artistic toll putting this strange cultural camp together can have on a person. It’s a complicated piece, indeed, but looks intriguing, even if the thought of Burning Man makes you roll your eyes and also vomit. Spark premieres at SxSW on Sunday, March 10th, and you can check out a trailer below.