Three Miles North of Molkom

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Venue: Edinburgh International Film Festival (UK)

EDINBURGH - It may take a while to find its stride, but "Three Miles North of Molkom" emerges as an unusually likeable and enjoyable crowdpleaser. A portrait of a fortnight-long, very new-agey gathering held annually in a woodsy corner of Sweden, the slickly-assembled documentary plays like a droll cross between "The Beach," "Waking Life" and TV's "Survivor" as we get to know a handful of attendees at what's essentially a temporary commune. Audience enthusiasm and critical support on the film-festival circuit could translate to theatrical play in docu-friendly territories, with only a little trimming needed to make "Molkom" suitable for widespread small-screen exposure.

Regardless of the picture's commercial fate, it could launch a lucrative stand-up comedy career for its undoubted 'star,' straight-talking Australian rugby-coach Nick Charters (who, like all of the film's 'characters,' is identified only by his first name.) Surrounded by what he disparagingly refers to as 'tree-huggers,' Nick is a sole naysaying voice in an environment which strives vocally and strenuously towards a touchy-feely upbeat community-spirit. But no oyster can yield a pearl without grit, and Nick, with his bluff wit and sardonic eye, both great company and a fine audience-surrogate as he throws himself into a wide program of group activities. These range from hot-coal firewalking to a bizarre form of mumbo-jumbo-inspired psychic-energy 'combat' that leaves one hapless participant battered and bruised.

But while Nick is initially (and hilariously) scathing in his dismissal of what's entitled the 'No Mind Festival,' he gradually realizes that the event's offputtingly cult-like surface conceals many worthwhile, potentially therapeutic experiences. The silently, largely unacknowledged film-makers, whose high-def digital cameras enjoy intimate all-areas access, undergo a similar change of attitude. Early sequences could be interpreted as serving up oddball behaviour for our condescending amusement, but eventually we obtain a rounded picture of the event's atmosphere, advantages and pitfalls. Documentary cinema can yield great art or penetrating polemics, but sometimes it's enough to simply take us to unusual places populated by vivid individuals - as "Three Miles North of Molkom" once again so entertainly proves.

Production company: Third Eye Film Productions.

Directors: Robert Cannan, Corinna Villari-McFarlane. Producers: Robert Cannan, Corinna Villari-McFarlane. Director of photography: Joseph Russell. Editors: Robert Cannan, Corinna Villari-McFarlane. Sales Agent: Third Eye, London.

No MPAA rating, 110 minutes.

 

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