Way Up Thar

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In 2004, sibling filmmakers Jeremy and Randy Stulberg discovered a community of drug dealers, runaways, veterans, and self-proclaimed patriots living on an inhospitable patch of New Mexico desert. These folks survive without electricity, running water, or police supervision. It's like the Old West, or "the world's largest outdoor insane asylum," as one long-time occupant proclaims in the Stulbergs' absorbing documentary Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa. "You can really let your freak flag fly." Sounds enticing. Except, as one youngster warns, the mesa is not for tourists. Its inhabitants are fiercely independent, heavily armed, and prone to drunken binges necessitating wide open spaces. Diplomatic harmony is maintained by a council of old timers that gathers occasionally to sort out troublemakers and thieves -- lest newcomers get their fool heads blown off. During the Stulbergs' stay, such a problem arises and the council must judge the "Nowhere Kids," a contingent of urban runaways who view stealing as redistribution. The conflict becomes the lynchpin of the Stulbergs' documentary, but the drama is unnecessary. The characters on the mesa are riveting -- as beautiful, harsh, and hopeless as the landscape they have come to inhabit – and, at a mere 70 minutes, it leaves you wanting more.
May 2-7, 6:30 & 9:50 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 3 p.m.; May 9-14, 3, 6:30 & 9:30 p.m. Starts: May 2. Continues through May 7, 2008

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