The founders of this back-to-the-land experiment are slowing down and facing declining health. Will the next generation be able to sustain the community?

A seamless, lyrical, poignant piece of work.  

Chris Wilson, University of New Mexico
Synopsis: 

An intimate portrait of hippie elders and their adult children, filmed over a 10-year period at a communal ranch in New Mexico.  

Sally was the ultimate back-to-the-land pioneer, building her own adobe house—while pregnant—in time to give birth there.  Now her daughter Dulcie is returning to the ranch to raise her own children in this community.  But will Dulcie and her husband Charris be able to resist the tug of the wider world?  Kate came to the ranch to raise her children and work as a potter.  When she can no longer sustain the commute to care for her ailing 90-year old mother, Kate brings her home to the ranch to spend her final months.  Bjorn has lived at the ranch for nearly 40 years.  Now over 80, he struggles with declining health and wonders whether the next generation will be able to sustain the community.

The film counters dismissive stereotypes with stories of people forged in the 60s counterculture who remain motivated by those youthful ideals in their 60s, 70s and 80s—a vision, more urgent now than ever, of healed relationships to body, mind, spirit, society, Earth and cosmos.

Reviews

A moving exploration of life at a 40 year old communal ranch in New Mexico, as the founders grapple with changes that come with growing older -- illness, disability, the death of parents, and their own mortality.  A wonderful addition to courses in Family Studies, Sociology, Gerontology, and related disciplines, the film provides a springboard for discussing important topics related to aging, family relationships, and community life. 

Deborah Altus, Chair, Department of Human Services and Coordinator, Gerontology Minor, Washburn University. Board member, International Communal Studies Association and Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America

In the 1960s era thousands of young counterculturists streamed out of cities and settled on the land, seeking to lead simple lives in the company of other like-minded souls.  Hippie Family Values captures the spirit of that time beautifully.  A good classroom resource for courses in twentieth-century history and cultural alternatives. 

Timothy Miller, author of The Hippies and American Values and The 60s Communes, and Professor of Religious Studies, Kansas University

A beautiful film, told with such sensitivity, integrity, and respect.                          

Sonali Gulati, Virginia Commonwealth University

I loved teaching Hippie Family Values in my big gen ed class. Students were riveted by the idea of a utopian politics, of building a community to prefigure the world as you want it, because so many of them feel hopeless about creating inclusive communities that reflect their values in these times. The film moved my students, encouraged them, gave them hope, and provoked a thoughtful and critical discussion in my course. I will use it again.

Laura Briggs, Professor and Chair of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Beverly Seckinger's curious and empathetic camera brings you close to a group who have made a communal life together for forty years – not without heartache and heartbreak, but beyond the isolation of nuclear families and privatized child-rearing. Great for students of ethnography, American Studies classrooms, courses exploring inter-generational communal life and anyone interested in the texture of everyday life lived in a vibrant and unconventional community.

Christina Crosby, Professor of English and Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Wesleyan University

An intimate and moving journey...a timely contribution to the renewed interest in the back-to-the-land movement among the millennials and a must see for all baby boomers.             

Helis Sikk, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, College of Wooster

A beautiful example of an ethnographic film that can enhance students' learning in a variety of fields.  In my fields of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Religious Studies, I can imagine Hippie Family Values helping students to understand what it means to try to build and sustain a utopian community.  

Janet R. Jakobsen, Claire Tow Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Barnard College, Columbia University

A beautiful piece of work…wonderful!

Chris Roth, Editor, Communities magazine

An intimate and moving examination of an almost mythical life. The people in the film epitomize the dream of a simpler existence, close to the land and deeply connected with the environment and each other.  Leaves the viewer hopeful for the future of human relationships and with renewed faith in the seductive lure of following one’s dreams.

Ellen Hansen, Professor of Geography and Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies, Emporia State University

Hippie Family Values is a beautifully filmed and thoughtfully crafted story. But it is so much more than a good story: it’s a commentary on our times and our obsession with stuff and success. It’s an examination of human relationships and the impact of stepping outside the mainstream of culture. It’s a look at what roots in a particular piece of land, a place, can mean. And perhaps best of all, this story of people with different aims and backgrounds coming together to internally create community, not always successfully, is an antidote to the bitter divisiveness that shapes our country today. 

Susan J. Tweit, author of Walking Nature Home: A Life's Journey

A Universal Story

Hippie Family Values is a beautiful film, shot over a 10-year period at a 40-year-old communal ranch in southwest New Mexico, and also benefiting from archival videos and photos. We get to know members of four generations—including the hippie elders’ own parents, children, and grandchildren—as residents explore what it’s like to call a remote desert outpost home, building lives together based on countercultural principles, cooperation, and back-to-the-land ethics and practices.

We witness transitions—departures, returns, new children, deaths—as well as the birth and waning of various projects and dreams. Most of all, we get an intimate feel of this unconventional extended “family” and how it—like any family and any community—goes through inevitable changes.

The Ranch faces the same dilemmas any long-lived community does: how do we care for our elders? How do we bring in “new blood” and welcome innovation while not losing our core values and practices? How can we be home to both the old and the new? How do we cope with the gradual slide that often seems to happen from collectivism toward individualism—and how can we come back together when we seem to be drifting apart too much?

It also faces dilemmas particularly acute for rural, back-to-the-land communities: how do we keep people here when local economic opportunities are few? How do we balance the counterculture we have created with the prevailing cultural forces that surround us? How do we stay connected to the outside world—including friends and family who have not chosen to join us, and in fact may have very different aspirations—while at the same time staying true to the land, the community, and the vision that we’ve committed our lives to? And how do we follow our personal passions and paths when they seem to diverge from life on the ranch, or when a larger or different adventure calls, or when our remote rural community begins to feel like a dead-end rather than a paradise? And how do we deal with the emotions that come up when we separate from people who are, in effect, lifelong family, through community if not through blood?

Hippie Family Values is an intimate view of community members who, over the course of time, ask these questions of themselves and of each other, but who, throughout, also live very much in the present. I found myself growing fond of different Ranch members, then experiencing the pangs of their departures (or of the waning of their hopes as a particular plan became unworkable). I’m sure my vicarious emotions were just a taste of what the actual individuals involved felt at each transition or setback, but they were also a reminder of what any one of us who experiences such cycles personally goes through emotionally.

In her email introducing the film to me, filmmaker Beverly Seckinger described its nature well: “Hippie Family Values is not really an issue-oriented film, nor does it have a strong narrative plot. Rather, I see it as more of an ethnographic film—an intimate slice of life, filmed over many years, in the course of which we experience a bit of the texture of life in this back-to-the-land community, and ponder the phases of life, from birth through death, with an emphasis on aging. What did it mean to commit to this community, and live for decades there, raise children there, and now face aging and death, wondering if the community will survive into the next generation?”

Far from being a “downer,” though, this honest meditation on change, loss, and transition—as well as connection, fulfillment, caring, and fun—within a loving community felt liberating to me. Every moment it depicts comes across as real and alive in the present, and also, in the end, proves evanescent—a realization that sometimes comes as a rude shock. But if communitarians and communities can recognize these transitions as inevitable—signs of having lived, rather than of failure—then I think we’ll have a lot more acceptance and joy, and more ability to embrace or at least appreciate every stage of the multiple overlapping journeys that we experience as community members and simply as human beings. In fact, this is a film that I believe anyone—hippie or not, communard or social conservative—has the capacity to relate to in some way, and to learn from. 

Chris Roth, COMMUNITIES Magazine, Winter 2017 (full text of review)
Director's Commentary: 

Hippie Family Values has grown organically from my experience playing music with the Wayback Machine throughout southern Arizona and New Mexico over the past 17 years. The film explores the legacy of the hippie movement and ethos through the stories of elders and their offspring at a communal ranch in New Mexico, where the Wayback Machine has played our favorite gig of the year every summer.

The legacy of the hippie counterculture in southern Arizona and New Mexico is a fluid network of artists, organic gardeners and farmers, food co-ops and CSAs, community organizers, educators and activists, musicians and dancers, alternative health practitioners and natural builders, connected by a shared vision of social justice, communitarianism and sustainability, which stands in stark contrast to the consumerist values of mainstream corporate America. At the same time, many countercultural innovations have seeped into mainstream culture, from organic produce and free range eggs in chain grocery stores to yoga, meditation, acupuncture and massage, wind farms and rooftop solar, peace and border rights activism, cooperative business structures, and much more.

Fifty years after the Summer of Love, the don’t-trust-anyone-over-30 generation now dotes on their grandchildren, and faces the challenges of advancing age. The elders profiled in the film continue to defy convention as they pursue communal alternatives to commercial retirement facilities and nursing homes.

Despite their enduring contributions, energy and idealism, the word “hippie” remains an epithet, and cartoonish stereotypes prevail. Hippie Family Values tells a different story, and reclaims their legacy.