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Modern Tribalism (2001) – DVD Review

modern tribalism dvd cover


Written by:
Directed by: Mimi George & Rick Kent
Starring: Rick Kent


  • Trailer
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Production Photos
  • Extra Interviews

Released by: Wellspring Media
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: Nope

My Advice: Rent it if you are a New Age enthusiast; Avoid it if you are squeamish.

In our warp speed race towards modernity and the future, our society has abandoned many of our ancient traditions in an effort to make better time. But some feel the need for the rituals and rites that we’re lacking. Some seek the extremes of pain and body modification to feel part of something greater while others simply gather to party around a great big bonfire. The redefining of primeval experiences for the present era is explored in Modern Tribalism.

[ad#longpost]The docu focuses on four specific examples of this movement: the new creativity and popularity of tattooing, the reasoning and ritualism of extreme piercing, the combination of communal living and individual expression of the Burning Man Festival, and the annual fiery destruction of Old Man Trouble in Santa Fe, NM. The tattoo segment doesn’t cover anything new, more and better information can be obtained from watching Body Art. And watching the town of Santa Fe burn Zozobra or Old Man Trouble is fun, but not very informative. The two main segments are the Burning Man Festival and a piercing seminar led by Fakir Musafar, a man who is seriously into piercing and sacred pain…a lot of sacred pain. The seminar emphasizes the mystical and ritualistic aspects of piercing, even having the participants piercing themselves with cheek spears. And the Burning Man festival coverage is more focused on the weirdness than on the cooperation required for the festival to work.

modern tribalism desert pyramid

While these segments are interesting in themselves, they deal only tangentially with the theme of tribalism in modern times. Altering yourself through inks and implements are time-honored traditions and there’s nothing more ancient than gathering together to watch something burn, but these don’t tie together with the stated theme of the piece. The bias of the documentary bothered me too. It represented the modern world as spiritually bankrupt and overly materialistic. Now I’m not saying it isn’t, but it’s obviously appealing to the New Age crowd and not presenting a balanced portrayal that would interest anyone else. A true show on modern tribalism, for example, would include an examination of urban gangs–but that would be too negative for this show.

modern tribalism wire harness

The extras include the ubiquitous trailer and a slideshow of production photos. These were actually nicely shot and not the usual shots of people standing around with camera equipment or just looking goofy. Several deleted scenes are included including someone getting pierced in a…very sensitive area and a brief foray into technopaganism. There are some extra interviews as well, but these tend to ramble and make you realize how important an editor can be. If Modern Tribalism happens to show up on one of the cable education channels, go ahead and watch it. But I wouldn’t recommend this for most people.

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