Francisco Examiner May
by Jeffrey M. Anderson
stock markets, dwindling energy sources, school shootings,
dubious tax cuts - plenty of stories are out there,
and all of 'em bad.
two Bay Area documentary filmmakers recently snooped
around the world and found real-life stories worth telling,
and the news feels good.
week, Tom Weidlinger's "Boys Will Be Men" and
Gunnar Madsen's "Svetlana Village: The Camphill
Experience in Russia"
have their Bay Area premieres at special benefit events
on digital video, both movies were filmed in various
parts of the world and completed here. Though they couldn't
be more different in subject matter, they share a heartwarming
humanist quality and celebrate people who go out of their
way to make the world better.
Village: The Camphill Experience in Russia" explores
human behavior and the search for harmony, but in a different
setting (from "Boy Will Be Men").
Film is based on experiences of filmmaker Gunnar Madsen's
brother Peter Madsen as well as other villager in Svetlana,
a Russian town 90 miles east of St. Petersburg. Svetlana
is the site of Camphill, an organization whose members
are developmentally disabled people who support themselves
in a farm environment. With the help of volunteer co-workers,
they grow and harvest their own food, prepare it, and
store it for the winter.
the request of his family, Gunnar Madsen (whose vocals
and music have appeared in HBO's "The Rat Pack" and "Sex
and the City") shot the video, which describes a
hectic week during the 2000 harvest at Camphill.
the film stands on its own as a compelling story, it's
also a fund-raiser to benefit the people who appear in
it. The Madsens hope to raise $1 million so that the
villagers can live off the interest, about $3,000 per
month, which is all they need.
of the most important elements of Camphill life is music,
because the village has no electricity for prefab entertainment.
So the Madsen brothers' musical talents came in handy.
many of the developmentally disabled folks at Camphill
were told that they would never be able to live by themselves
- one person was unable to even put on a hat - everyone
in the film has a job to do, from making bread to peeling
potatoes, to more strenuous farmwork.
are kept simple and handy," Peter Madsen says.
limit our use of technical supplies so that everything
is done with their hands. If you put them in a McDonald's
and expect them to work fast and under a lot of pressure,
they're most likely not to succeed very well. Efficiency
is not theirs to offer. But they can succeed if you put
them in an environment where their pace, warmth, and
intelligence is taken into account. And the other thing
is that they are asked to try."
Madsen adds, "Many people have said that the volunteers
couldn't get by without the disabled people. They ground
everything...in a way that's so simple that everyone
stops and reconsiders where they're at."
many people, volunteers and visitors, are shy when first
approaching the disabled folks, those fears quickly evaporate.
away from them, they become something else, or something
'other'. The Russian word for them is 'invalid'. That
really carries a stigma." But Peter Madsen admits
that through meeting the Svetlana villagers first-hand
he felt comfortable right away.
now, Peter has moved his family back to California.
the fundraiser for the village," he says. "I
recently spoke to an experienced fundraiser who just
put an end to my dream to get it done before July. They
said to expect three years."
will be moving to a similar Camphill community in New
York, and mentions that yet another community opened
in Santa Cruz this week.
is just the beginning," he says.