Short Takes: EcoNotes Free Spirits: A Mini-review

by Stephen Morris, Editor, Green Living Journal

We don’t usually review DVDs, but I watched one the other night that was so engrossing I have to mention it. “Free Spirits” is a documentary film from Acorn Productions produced by Bruce Geisler and Don Fizzinoglia. This is what is billed as the “incredible story of the Renaissance Community” and its controversial founder, Michael Metelica Rapunzel.

Even though I have lived in this general vicinity for my entire life, I had no familiarity with the Renaissance Community, so I consider myself an impartial reviewer of this film.

First of all, a plaudit on the technical side. This is a superbly shot and edited film. It is, at once, a labor of love, but also a work of high craftsmanship. You don’t have to know the story to be drawn in by the engrossing story-telling.

And quite a story it is.

High school dropout and spiritual visionary Michael retreats to a Leyden, Massachusetts treehouse and begins attracting followers. Eventually, the tribe grows to 350, with real estate holdings and ambitions to make their model of brotherhood a model for the rest of the world.

Of course, it failed, with all the accompanying gnashing of teeth, mea culpas, and anguished self-deprecation. But did it really fail? The sub-title seems to suggest so-“The Birth, Life, & Loss of a New Age Dream.”

I disagree.

First of all, this may be the loss of a dream, but a “New Age” dream? Possibly an “overweening pride” dream or a “youthful indiscretion” dream, but leave “New Age” to the woo-woo people on the Left Coast. But I also disagree with “loss,” because Michael and followers didn’t fail, they just did the heavy lifting for the rest of us who have followed. Green Living is a journal for “friends of the environment.” We’ve been publishing for 17 years now and going strong. We are the inheritors of Michael and the Renaissance Community. We owe you a huge debt of thanks.

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