The subversive movements of the '60s and '70s are still a lifeline for outcast kids across America.

The subversive movements of the '60s and '70s are still a lifeline for outcast kids across America.

You have a college education but no job; the internet gives you a portal to the vastness of the world but your small town is all tea and no party; your government fights wars in which you wish no part. So where does this leave you?

For a new generation of countercultural dropouts – coined ‘Dirty Kids’ in a new documentary by UK director Alice Stein – the answer lies in the subversive movements of the ’60s and ’70s, in particular at a phenomenon called Rainbow Gatherings.

Although they now pop up over the world Rainbow Gatherings – temporary communities that ‘seek to encourage the practice and ideals of peace, love, respect, harmony, freedom and community, and seek to serve as an alternative to consumerism, capitalism, and mass media – originated in Colorado and have a special place in the fabric of the disruptive West Coast.

The gatherings are organised in a horizontal fashion – without leadership – and reject the exchange of money, establishing kitchens in which as much as 10,000 people can be fed three times a day. Necessities are free, goes the dictum, and luxuries can be traded for.

We caught up with Alice to find out more about these historic jubilees and the new wave of attendees making them home.

How did you first come into the contact with the group of young people documented in the film?
I first met them in a Walmart Car park just outside the gathering. The group had come in to get supplies for their kitchen – ‘Sweeter than yo mumas box’.

What intrigued you about their story?
Honestly so much! I’d never heard of the term ‘dirty kid’ before. They are a relatively new phenomenon at gatherings but I was overwhelmed with how many there were. The gathering seemed overrun with them – kind of like a ‘paradise island’ for lost boys.

These are people who have chosen to opt out, were you apprehensive about publicising their lives?
I never filmed anyone who wasn’t comfortable or happy with being on camera. I’m super English and polite (maybe too much) so when it comes to filming I always asked permission and never filmed anyone who wasn’t up for it. I even had to go so far as wearing a giant sign around my neck when walking through crowds so people were aware I was filming.

What did they seem dissatisfied with in mainstream society?
For the Dirty kids pretty much everything! Mostly the sense of rejection they felt from the outside world. Many came from small towns with ‘narrow-minded’ views on race, sex and religion and were outcast for being ‘different’.

Who organises the ‘Rainbow Gatherings’ and what do you think they offer people?
The ‘Nationals’ are organised by a group of experienced volunteers – some of them ‘old timers’ and attendees of the very first Woodstock gathering. Rainbow provides a huge support for their family – many of which are homeless. The infrastructure they build in the forest is truly amazing and includes free kitchens scattered throughout the forest providing three meals a day for 10,000 people. Most importantly the gatherings offer acceptance and a family. No matter who you are you are welcomed home – as long as you have a bellybutton.

You followed your subjects for two years, how difficult was it to be accepted by them?
The particular group I met in the car park was very accepting straight away and then eventually I guess people thought I was one of them.

How do you hope people respond to the film?
I think I’m just hoping that others will respond in the same way I did – I loved everyone I filmed with and I guess I’m hoping those watching will fall in love with them too.

Visit Alice Stein’s website for updates.

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