SCREENED AT THE 2007 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: Hippies. It always starts with the damn hippies.Alice Klein’s documentary, Call of the Hummingbird, chronicles the eco-festival of the same name, as earth-lovers gather in central Brazil to establish a nature-based living community for thirteen days a year. Over 1000 people gather to build a village and live in harmony, and – by extension – make the world a better place.
The problem is, once they arrive, these free spirits seem to expect that someone else will improve the world in their stead. (400 volunteer to help out, yet only about 100 actually bother to show up and lend a hand with various chores, such as instituting a makeshift recycling program.) When a consensus is to be formed during village meetings, some speakers proceed to rant and rave and ramble for over an hour while others struggle to get in a word edgewise.
However, while watching drama and conflict develop between those working for a greater cause might be substantial enough for an hour-long doc, Klein makes the unfortunate decision to include herself in the proceedings and vouch for the community, primarily via her meek narration. Instead of allowing itself to stand as an impartial portrait of those trying to do the right thing for the environment, she feels the need to not only advocate it, but she then struggles to correlate their activities with the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 and self-absorbed remarks about how she saw Katrina take out New Orleans. Her thoughts on those topics clumsily attempt to stretch a simply enough story onto a greater scope than intended or necessary.What a pity it is that Klein can’t find her subjects fascinating enough in their attempts to organize and maintain an eco-friendly, if temporary, lifestyle without turning preachy about the scope of their mission. If there’s one thing the world could do without, it’s an hour-long endorsement of a hippie-happy spring break opportunity.