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Documentary explores the lives of ‘Hippie families’

Courtesy Professor Seckinger
“Hippie Family Values” is a documentary filmed by Professor Seckinger.

Beverly Seckinger, a University of Arizona professor for the School of Theatre, Film and Television, produced and filmed her documentary, Hippie Family Values,  focusing on the valued traditions and lifestyle of hippie elders. The documentary takes place at a communal ranch in rural New Mexico. 

The film gives an intimate view and perspective into the way of life that members of the communal ranch have established. Seckinger became attracted to the idea about making a film when she performed for the community and was captivated by its charm in 2004. 

In between teaching at UA, Seckinger worked in “two to three week spurts” over a 10-year period to produce footage for her documentary. She was persistent and dedicated to her research in portraying an accurate perspective of the hippie lifestyle and its founders. 

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Hippie Family Values allows the viewer to see the shape of life unfold from birth to growing old on the ranch. The film presents a slice of life over a long period of time, according to Seckinger. 

“The goal for the film is to educate and counteract stereotypical views of the hippie lifestyle and to show the ranch as a model for aging in a loving community,” Seckinger said. 

Members of the ranch that first established the community are faced with the question “Are young people going to come back?” As time has passed the elder members of the ranch contemplate the future and if the next generation can carry their traditions and values. 

However, already a handful of young people have come and begun the process of becoming members of the communal ranch according to Seckinger. The community members share a close and cherished family-like relationship with one another. 

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The members of the ranch also act as environmental stewards to the vegetation of the land, especially to the preservation of natural hot springs. The sustainability of tradition is another task that elder members face when passing on the responsibilities to their children and grandchildren according to Seckinger. 

Hippie Family Values premiered at the Santa Fe Film Festival on Feb. 11 as the film’s first public screening, in which many of the community’s members attended. Seckinger has also allowed her work to be available for educational viewing on New Day Films. 

Seckinger is a musician herself and picking the right music for the film was very important.

“As editing went on, it became clear to all of us that an organic, acoustic sound would most gracefully and consistently support the ranch stories and rural setting,” Mitzi Cowell, a composer and musician for Hippie Family Values, said. “I used a lot of blues and slide playing to express that these are real people who, as well as living their dreams and ideals of intentional community, also deal with everyday challenges, histories, hurts and hard work.” 

Since the beginnings of Seckinger’s vision for the film, Cowell said she related to its message and the loving relationship that the “folks” at the ranch had as well as the close community here in Tucson. Cowell described her assurance in saying yes to creating music for the film as “natural as breathing.” 

The storylines and personalities of the people on the ranch, were pared with simple acoustic guitar sound in addition to some sweet folk sounds were used to act as the sonic glue and consistent tone according to Cowell. In response to Cowell’s personal connection to the community, the aim in composing music for Hippie Family Values was to honor members of the ranch and support the message and meaning behind Seckinger’s work. 

An important and memorable moment for Cowell during production of the film was Seckinger’s decision to use “Mama’s Song” for the closing credits, which Cowell wrote while spending time at the ranch.

“It is about a revelation I had about Mother Earth, free will, and the aspect of strong motherhood that allows a child to find things out on their own. It’s a perfect moment, musically, lyrically, spiritually,” Cowell said. 

The documentary will be shown Thursday April 12 at 7:00 p.m. at the Loft Cinema.

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