Friday, August 19, 2011

Magic Trip............yes, that kind!

In 1964 Ken Kesey, the famed author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," set off on a legendary, LSD-fueled cross-country road trip to the New York World's Fair.

Director Alison Ellwood picks up the journey from there, explaining how she and director Alex Gibney came to make this film with long forgotten footage.

"On our way to Sundance in 2005 with our film, Enron: The smartest Guys in the Room, Alex and I read an article in the New Yorker by Robert Stone.  In the article he mentioned 40 hours of 16mm footage had been shot by Ken and the Pranksters.  It sounded too good to be true!  Sure enough, it was being stored in Ken's barn on the farm.  It was a big restoration project.  We got a grant from Scorcese's Film Foundation and the History Channel and the archive at UCLA began the job.  The film took us 6 years to make.  In reality, it's been in production for 47 years.  People told us we were crazy to take it on.  Perhaps we were!  But it was too good to pass up.  It was both frustrating and fun!"

There has probably never been a social revolution like the one in the sixties and we wondered if they agreed and whether they thought it was lack of social conciousness.

"I don't think there would ever be something else quite like that," said Ellwood.  "I hope it's not because we are no longer socially conscious!  Although, sometimes one has to wonder.  I think that as a society we are more interested in gadgets than revolutions.  As Ken said in one of the interviews, not in the film, "Everybody wants the revolution to succeed.  But they want their stereos, too.  With the assassination of JFK in '63, I think a fear pervaded the nation.  JFK represented hope.  When he was killed, it was as if hope died with him." 

We asked Ellwood what she thought the was the reason for the LSD government experiments.  Do you blame them for creating the drug culture and should they be accountable?

"Ken believed the LSD experiments were being done by the government to help people with mental illness such as schizophrenia.   Of course, it turned out they were being done as a method of mind control - MKULTRA.  I certainly don't think the CIA intended to "create" the drug culture.  But it sure is one hell of a blow-back!"

There was a great symbolic bear scene in the movie so we asked her if she thought we are a culture of fear.

"It is one of my favorite moments in the film.  It was also pivotal in helping me with understanding how to edit the film.  The sequences had to be about more than we were looking at.
  I think more than ever we are driven by fear.  The cold war and fear of the bomb had been replaced by terrorism and economic meltdowns.  We're being attacked, not just from outside forces who wish us harm, but from within by forces determined to hold onto their power, regardless of the price to the country."

Does being different ever win or are those that are different meant to lose.....does society set us up?

I think we like sports because, for the most part, there are clear winners.  In life, it's not always so clean cut.  Gains are made and battles won but the war rages on.  But it is always worth fighting.  
I don't think society sets us up as much as we set ourselves up.  What role society plays we somehow allow by not remaining vigilant.  But the irony is that the closer we get to the things we are striving toward, the more we lose sight of them.  
I suppose "we are meant to lose" because there will always be something over the horizon that either throws us off our path or otherwise distracts us.  But, again, it's still worth trying.  If we don't at least try to make things better, who will?'

MAGIC TRIP is playing at the E Street Cinema.   Watch the trailer here: