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Film review: Confessions of a Burning Man

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 7 2004 1:23 p.m. MST

Actress Samantha Weaver in "Confessions of a Burning Man."

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Give the makers of "ConfessionS of a Burning Man" credit. After all, it takes credit to make something as, well, unusual, as the Burning Man Festival seem so usual and so very ordinary.

And that seems a little dishonest, considering that the film's title promises something different — something more akin to a tell-all "confessional" about Burning Man, a musical entertainment and arts festival held annually in Nevada's Black Rock Desert that has gained a reputation for being more about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll than anything else.

However, this surprisingly routine and listless documentary tries to de-mystify some of the Burning Man goings-on. Unfortunately, that also makes it — and the film — less interesting than you'd think. Every time the documentary heads in what seems like a promising direction, it just as quickly detours into a dead end.

It doesn't help that the filmmakers have chosen to focus on four people coming into Burning Man for the first time in 2001 — ultra-rich Anna Getty, taxi driver Michael Winaker, actress Samantha Weaver and filmmaker Kevin Epps.

They all talk more about themselves than the festival itself. And what's worse, most of them aren't nearly as interesting as they clearly think they are.

Of this lot, only Winaker holds our interest for long (how he winds up finding his passengers' destination given their sketchy directions and addresses is anyone's guess).

To be fair, co-directors Paul Barnett and Unsu Lee do a good job of showing the magnitude of the festival. And some of their points about its lack of racial diversity are well-made. That makes their choice of subjects all the more unfortunate.

"Confessions of a Burning Man" is not rated but would probably receive an R for male and female nudity, frequent use of strong sexual profanity and crude slang terms, crude sexual humor and drug references. Running time: 83 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com

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