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We Love You : Documenting The Rainbow Gathering

The Rainbow Gathering has become an annual rite that brings a small group back to the earth and away from the hustle, bustle and technology of the outside world referred to as “Babylon.” Having such views of the planet, ignoring the laws on such activities and looking like hippies has gained the Gatherers few fans in the areas of forest service law enforcement and public opinion. But, despite resistance the events have taken place every year since 1972 at one of the United States national parks.

Documentary filmmaker Jonathan Kalafer along with Academy-award nominated producer Steve Kalafer chronicled the 38th Annual Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes. In the film, We Love You, they not only find participants willing to shed some light on its history and intentions but expose a tense confrontation between them and authorities.

Kalafer acknowledges he has an affinity for the Gathering’s utopian idealism and he hopes that his films and his work as a teacher evoke some degree of positive change in the world

We Love You has screened in three festivals — L.A. International Short Film Festival (Premiere), New Jersey Film Festival, and Asheville Film Festival — and received awards for “Best Documentary” in L.A. and “Best Short Documentary” in N.J.

“We are gearing up for the festival season and also planning a set of university screenings,” said Kalafer, adding that he is leaning towards also streaming the film online as well as shooting more footage at the 2010 Rainbow Gathering.

I spoke with Kalafer shortly after he finished teaching his high school class.

JPG: So where do you teach and what do you teach?

JK: I teach at Dickinson High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. We’re right across the river from New York, have a great view of Manhattan from our campus. That’s my calling, teaching. It’s something I love to do. I’m doubly blessed because the other thing I love to do is making films, and digital media, in general, is what I teach. The days are doubly great. I started as an English teacher and I designed an after school program teaching kids the basics and giving them a space to use media production software like music production software, video production software. It started as an after school program and I wrote up a curriculum with a committee and asked the administration if I could make it an elective. They were really pleased with the level of the work the kids did and how engaged the kids were, so they went for it. That’s all I teach. And they hired another teacher to teach the same thing only. It’s great. They can take it instead of art or music.

JPG: Are they making short films or videos or is it just an intro?

JK: It’s definitely an intro level course, and they do different projects. They work on making music using music production software we use SL Studio. So, they make like a rudimentary beat, melody. Actually, they just presented those today. The level of work was good. They do short video projects. They’ve done short films. They’ve done short documentaries. They’ve done public service announcements and other little projects, too. Generally, they work with partners on the music. They each put one earbud in their ear and work together on the computer and then we work as an entire class on the video project because there are so many different roles to play in the video projection

JPG: The Granola Funk Express video on the We Love You DVD, is that an example from the class?

JK: That is something I did. My students didn’t do that one. I did that just when I was trying to…I was excited for the project the winter before 2008. But we couldn’t do anything because the Rainbow Gathering happens the first week of July. So, I’m waiting to do it. I was getting some clearance to do some archival footage, from some brothers that have footage from ’72 and ’79. GFE is really a strange band. Are you familiar with Granola Funk Express at all?

JPG: No

JK: They’re on the border of the jamband world, but they’re hip-hop. They’ve been together forever, and they have a really small cult following. That song they did is a favorite of mine and that’s why I’m putting on the DVD even with that ghetto edited piece. It wasn’t an example of their best work, which is part of the reason I didn’t end up using it for the credit roll, which is what I originally intended. But mostly, their lyrics are really good. Their lyrics are very dense; tend to be very long and fast. They’re still together, they’re playing. If you go to GranolaFunk.com I think you can hear some of their music.

JPG: Now the name, Granola Funk, isn’t that the theatre area at the Rainbow Gathering?

JK: Yes. This is so typical Rainbow, right? Everything is kind of connected. Granola Funk got their start at the Rainbow Gathering. I think they met in Ocala in 1991. One of them never went to a Rainbow Gathering. That guy is from my home state of New Jersey. I’m not sure how he hooked up with them, to be honest, but they’re all good rhymers and good MCs, so I guess they stuck it out together. But the rest of them all knew each other from Rainbow Gathering. And they knew each other because, while at the Gathering, they all would spend most of their time at the Granola Funk Theatre. They don’t go to Gatherings anymore.

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