Reel NW


Reel NW Films/Back to the Garden

Back to the Garden Filmmaker Interview
  • REEL NW

Back to the Garden: Fimmaker Interview

Film Critic Robert Horton speaks with "Back to the Garden" director Kevin Tomlinson.

About the Film

About the Film

In the sixties they were satirized and vilified for rejecting materialism and corporate culture, in the seventies they stopped the war, started communes, urged back to the land and environmental sustainability … but by the eighties they had virtually disappeared from everyday life.

So where did all the “flowers” go?

In 1988—nearly twenty years after Woodstock-Seattle filmmaker Kevin Tomlinson asked himself that question while interviewing a group of back-to-the-land hippies at a backcountry healing gathering in Washington State.

He found small embers of sixties dropouts were still intact and thriving contrary to popular belief and were raising families while refining their hippie idealism—independent of a mass culture that had marginalized and all but forgotten them.

Doubtful about how seriously this would be viewed in 1988, the footage sat untouched but not forgotten for almost 20 years.

In 2006, Tomlinson took another look. What these off-grid Hippies were talking about in 1988—sustainability, living simpler, sustainable lives, love for the earth, questioning authority, self-reliance, and community responsibility—seemed to be blossoming with incredible force and coming full circle 20 years later as the impact of climate change, an unpopular war, shopping-as-patriotism and the green movement took center stage in mainstream discussion.

He set out to find his original subjects again with new questions. Had their radical off-grid lifestyles and ideals survived? Had anyone gone mainstream? What about their children—how did they rebel against the rebel generation?

The adventure that followed offers profound, moving insights into one of the most iconic social movements of our time—and speaks to all of us who grew up then or were affected by sixties counterculture.

The non-conformist lifestyles of these aging back-to-the-landers and their now-thriving families, firmly insulated from global economic shocks, today looks ahead of its time and wiser than ever.

Director's Statement

Director's Statement

Back in 1988 I took a road trip that led me on a strange journey. By chance, I saw a funky poster advertising a Healing Gathering in rural Washington State. Curious to meet this community of backcountry hippies twenty years after Woodstock, I decided to go.

Upon arrival, I felt transported, finding myself among magic buses and tepees in a meadow filled with beaded flower children communing with nature. I shot hours of dancing, drumming, singing and celebration. I recorded extensive interviews with some of the most genuine, sincere beings I’d ever met.

With no plans for the material at the time and skeptical how it would be received during the Reagan/Bush years, the project was shelved. But it didn’t sit quietly. The images wouldn’t let go.

18 years later I asked myself, where have all the “flowers” gone?

So I began a new journey, a journey to find what had happened to all the dreams of getting back to the land, setting one’s soul free and environmental utopia. How had they survived living off-grid and below the poverty level for years? Had anyone changed course and gone mainstream? What had become of their dreams of self-reliance, simplicity, and freedom? And how did their children (now in their twenties) feel about their own “Hippie Kid” upbringings?

Not so long ago, those “Hippie” communities and their values were considered way too radical and fringe by the mainstream. Today, the Green Movement, looking to protect the earth for future generations, is wholeheartedly embracing them.

Back to the Garden presents a time-lapse view—twenty years in the lives of a group of idealist baby boomers who rejected and dropped out of the mainstream, who went back to the land, overcoming many personal sacrifices in pursuit of their dreams. It’s also a story about the personal consequences of those radical dreams and choices. Not only is this their story, but ours too, because the counterculture of the sixties affected all of us and forever changed our ideas about how we define love, wealth, spirituality and freedom.

Kevin Tomlinson

The Reel NW Connection

Reel NW focuses on the very best of independent film from the Northwest. Every week, Reel NW airs intriguing films from, or about, our own community. Kevin Tomlinson has been an independent Seattle-based producer, director and cinematographer for over 25 years. He currently shoots documentary and corporate programs for Microsoft, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and non-profit organizations Bridges to Understanding and Interplast. Kevin has taught filmmaking at the Seattle Film Institute and digital video and documentary production at 911 Media Arts since 2004.

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09/30/12

I read recently that your family may not always be the best for you, that you have to find your own tribe. As I watched this film today, I sat there with tears in my eyes, thinking "There they are!"

08/14/12

I loved this film and it made me realize that what I am passionate about CAN be my life. But I missed one thin--how did these beautiful people come by this land with no money> Homesteaders?

I own a mere 8 acres in upstate NY and it is too hard to live sustainably through the winter on this little land.

We have no children so our needs are small. Wondering if a nice home with sustainable wood harvesting in the back yard and good vegetable gardening in he east side of the property would appeal to anyone as a tade for something less "child friendly?"

And I still want to know how they did it.

Thanks,
Jamie

08/29/12

Hi Jamie: If I understand well, do you want to TRADE your land for something else? Call me if we have a chance. 206-395-4519. We want to make a change in our children's live.Thank you!

05/10/11

I LOVE THIS FILM! AS a child of the 60s myself I still live this lifestyle in the woods of the pacific northwest.
I was so excited to see this film and find out there is still others like me here in the woods.
We build our own homes with composting toilets, solar and big gardens and fruit trees. We live with the wildlife in the peace and quiet this is the life. I still cannot understand why everyone does not live this way.
It is all about the values we believe in. Why would anyone want to work for someone else to buy GMO foods and never have the free time and the wonderful lifestyle we have. Yes it is hard work but its much better then spending all day working for someone else then coming home so tired and just turning on the boob tube. No one can blame us for the corporations taking over the world today we tried to warn you.
I want to teach others how to come back to the woods and live this way.
Really it is time for others to come back to the garden. PEACE

05/10/11

I LOVE THIS FILM! AS a child of the 60s myself I still live this lifestyle in the woods of the pacific northwest.
I was so excited to see this film and find out there is still others like me here in the woods.
We build our own homes with composting toilets, solar and big gardens and fruit trees. We live with the wildlife in the peace and quiet this is the life. I still cannot understand why everyone does not live this way.
It is all about the values we believe in. Why would anyone want to work for someone else to buy GMO foods and never have the free time and the wonderful lifestyle we have. Yes it is hard work but its much better then spending all day working for someone else then coming home so tired and just turning on the boob tube. No one can blame us for the corporations taking over the world today we tried to warn you.
I want to teach others how to come back to the woods and live this way.
Really it is time for others to come back to the garden. PEACE

05/02/11

Thanks to you KCTS9 viewers, "Back to the Garden" received the highest facebook ratings and largest audience during the first season of 'Reel NW'.
We're thrilled and humbled...thank you from our hearts!

04/19/11

a most compelling & inspirational production im glad i had the pleasure of stumbling upon this gem. Thank you to all involved in its creation it truly resonates with me and has inspired me to reach for my dream (8^D

03/19/11

I watched "Back to the Garden " 3 times!! I enjoy it more than any documentary I have ever watched. You and the film deserve all of the awards that you've received so far and I hope many more are coming the films way.
thanks again...William Duncan

02/10/11

A very nicely done film -- timely, insightful, good footage and interviews, commentary, well put together -- documenting a collection of values and perspectives that create a potent alternative to a society ideologically driven by market-fundamentalism...

01/30/11

I love this....as an aging hippy who still embraces the values , thank you . I never gave up..I am on this path for life...and what have I done? After landing on Gaskins Farm (Commune)at the age of 19 in 1974...where I got educated about soyfoods and vegetarian diet...I have owned and operated a traveling tea house for the past 20 years....the Casbah Tea House....we winter in Arizona and every summer we have set off on a caravan of vehicles and crew, traveling with a gypsy wagon kitchen...serving Chai and organic veggie food...we set up a camp at several NW festivals....Faerie Worlds, Beloved Sacred Art & Music, Wellsprings Peace Village Fair, Hope Mountain Barter Fair,Hemp Expo, Shrewsbury Ren Fair...cook,serve, sing and dance...clean up, pack up and go do it again....alot of work...alot of fun...we travel with Egyptian tents and carpets and pillows and create an ambiant chill zone ...check out our you tube videos ..my website is down at the moment ..check my FB page too . Come with me to Ze Casbah where the hippies are...love to have you travel with us and make a film....Peace Carol Ann

01/30/11

What fun to see this film on television. Much joy and laughter as the "Back to the Landers" describe their motivations and methods. Grow your food, build your own house, make your own power, keep your footprint small and sustainable is the message they bring. Kevin has done an excellent job showing the changes and lessons learned as idealists manifest their dreams.

01/28/11

Skeeter hits prime time? I thought that stuff was "underground". What's the world coming to? Looks like maybe a better place. If you've never been to a Fairy Congress, get your reservations in now! It's for bettering Fairy/Human relations.

I took my daughters when they were really into fairies - and we actually saw some one night! I think they like the Fairy Congress every bit as much as the humans.

08/29/12

I am trying to forward this one comment to a friend.

01/28/11

Kevin has told the story of my life, too! Only I was a child of the 60s, not the 80s. I sometimes wish I'd have lived the dream to the extent these folks did. Even so, I hold all their values dear, loved reliving those days through the movie, and have sent the WEB address along to everyone I know who would enjoy watching it. They were all thrilled! Thanks for having filmed it.

01/27/11

I first saw this wonderful film in Barcelona at the fabulous FICMA festival last June. So happy to see it has done so well!

01/27/11

I love this documentary. The counter-culture saved me from heroin way back in 1982. I been walking the Rewilder life since.

01/27/11

I love this movie! The counter-cultured saved me from heroin back in 1982. I been on the path of Rewilding every since. I highly recommend everyone watch this beautiful documentary show the lives of people in my lifestyle. These are strong beautiful people.

01/27/11

This is the BEST FILM! Kevin has told the story of my life, too. In the 80's I built my own home in the woods and raised my kids there close to the land and with respect for Mother Earth!

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