Posted by: Gwen Ragno | March 1, 2010

Review: ‘Utopia’

Let’s be honest here. Documentaries can sometimes be incredibly boring.

Utopia, though,  wasn’t a film so much as a live presentation. A live documentary, as they called it.

Filmmaker Sam Green was in the theater while we watched, narrating as the series of images and movie clips played on the screen behind him.

For some segments, he would fall silent to just let us watch. While he was talking about what was on the screen, it sounded so much like a documentary narration that it was sometimes easy to forget that he was standing at the front of the room.

Then he would stumble over his words or throw out a curse word, and we’d be reminded that this wasn’t a disembodied voice, but a real guy.

The best parts were when audience collectively laughed at something he showed, and he would pause and react with something like, “Yes! This really happened.”

Utopia is a perfect society, where everyone lives in harmony and happiness. There is no money and no conflict. The word utopia means no place.

By its very definition, it can’t really exist. It’s an unobtainable ideology that people have been striving to find for ages. This presentation explored some of the past century’s attempts and failures, when the dreamers of the early 20th century found their efforts toward perfect harmony collided with some of the most horrific human tragedies in history – the Holocaust, Hiroshima.

Utopia really had the potential to be a supremely dismal film. But somehow, Green managed to make us come away from it feeling hopeful.

Maybe all the failed utopias don’t matter as much as the little utopias we create every time that a group of people join together for a common cause.


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