Wasteland Utopias explores the intersection of two radically different utopian thinkers: mega-developer Del Webb and outsider psychiatrist/naturalist Wilhelm Reich. Each found his way into southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert in the late 1950s-Webb building
Wasteland Utopias explores the intersection of two radically different utopian thinkers: mega-developer Del Webb and outsider psychiatrist/naturalist Wilhelm Reich. Each found his way into southern Arizona's Sonoran Desert in the late 1950s—Webb building his colossal, panoptically-planned retirement community Sun City and Reich conducting his weather manipulation experiments using Orgone Energy. This unlikely pairing provokes a hallucinatory, magic-conceptualist examination of the disintegrating fabric that connects man with nature, evoking questions about both ecological and social sustainability. Using found footage, documentary interviews, and narrative tableaux, the film interweaves contradictory narratives and critically poetic observations. By juxtaposing these two thinkers—who represent ostensibly opposing visions of a still-undefined future—Sherman asks viewers to consider a multiplicity of perspectives on our endangered natural and social environments.
As flaky as a croissant, and nearly as enjoyable, this meandering experimental doc draws myriad discursive connections between the lives and legacies of two forgotten figures from the Cold War era: real-estate mogul Del Webb, whose Sun City development in Arizona initiated the unsustainable urbanization of the Sonoran desert, and Wilhelm Reich, the ex-Freudian heretic who preached sexual freedom and imagined he could reclaim the Sonoran for mankind by bombarding the sky with invisible life-force quanta he called “orgone radiation.” I have no idea whether director David Sherman really believes in Roswell UFOs and an Eisenhower-era “Weather Control Act,” but he sure knows how to have fun messing around with stock footage, old newsreels, lo-fi video reconstructions, and crank ideologies. - Cliff Doerksen Chicago Reader
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