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Filmmaker Jennie Livingston (Paris is Burning) is raising funds for a new documentary feature, Earth Camp One, through Kickstarter. Described as both a “first-person family story” — Livingston began the film after losing four family members in five years — as well as “an essay,” the film deals with death, loss, and what she calls “the very American problem of discomfort with discomfort.”

From her Kickstarter page:

“To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” –Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

In the 1970s, I went to a hippie summer camp, Earth Camp One. There were geodesic domes and yoga and organic gardens, but, fueled by a health crisis at home, I was a neurotic mess. When we backpacked in Lassen Volcanic Park, I was certain the dormant volcanoes were about to erupt. Years later, the volcanoes have ERUPTED. In 1996, my mom and grandmother — Myra Cohn Livingston and Gertrude Cohn — died within months of each other; in 1998 my uncle, and film mentor — Alan J. Pakula — died in a freak accident on the Long Island Expressway; and in 2000 my brother Jonas — my first best friend — died in a drug accident. We spend years leaving our families to become who we are. Who do we become when they leave us?

Through narration; archival film and audio; interviews; and animation (about different conceptions of the afterlife) the film takes the viewer on a journey that, like it or not, is the journey we’re all on. The film asks surprising questions, like whether or not dead peoples’ stuff matters; and whether anxiety and fear actually create ill luck. From my own experience, from the successes of some of the works named above, and from our Earth Camp One work-in-progress screenings, it’s clear that people need to talk about this subject; from personal questions (like, how do we live with loss?) to the political (if we are all vulnerable, what do we owe other people and nations?)

Click on the page to learn more. Rewards include a first edition of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake from Livingston’s mother’s collection.

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