After 2 years of postponements and cancellations, overnight camping festivals are finally making their triumphant return! The documentary film, “Lightning in a Bottle: A Festival Story,” seeks to celebrate the value and importance of these transcendental, musical communal gatherings. The film is making its LA premiere on Monday, June 20 at the Marina del Rey Film Festival and offers a visceral, honest, and sometimes shocking inside look into the transformative power of these holistic music festivals, which are growing more popular by the year.
“LIB: A Festival Story” documents a diverse group of 20 millennials, named the Avocado campers, who had a life-defining experience in 2016 at the California music and yoga festival, “Lightning in a Bottle,” which just made its return after a 2 year pandemic-induced hiatus. In the film, the 2016 festival plays out in realtime from the Avocado campers’ perspective, as the 2020 quarantined versions of themselves reflect on what that festival experience truly meant, how they’ve grown amidst a rapidly changing world and what keeps them connected to this very day.
The film’s director, John Handem Piette, found a bit of internet notoriety in November 2020 when his “America Endgame” video meme, parodying the Avengers as American politicians and Trump as Thanos, garnered millions of views and galvanized all of Twitter on election week. The film’s premiere on Monday, June 20, lands on a federal holiday recognizing Juneteenth, which is the day prior, and is an honor not lost on the film’s African American director. “The film at its core is a celebration of freedom and diversity, and the love of community,” says John.
“LIB: A Festival Story” started off as a small and entirely self-funded project through Piette’s company, Assemble Studios. To get the film to the finish line, however, the filmmakers had to rally their online community and successfully crowd-funded over $30,000 on IndieGoGo’s platform to help get the film through post production. Piette said, “This film was a tribute to my friends and the unique connection we all shared, but the more people watched it, the bigger and more impactful we realized this film could become. Particularly for our “millennial” generation that have endured some pretty rough times and are looking for hopeful signs for our future.” The film, to date, has won 7 awards from all around the world and been selected by over 20 film festivals.
Producer Bradford Hunter Wray, who is also featured in the film along with his photography, said, “I’m excited for people to experience the film and how it bridges the extreme polarities of connection and community at these transformative festivals, with the feelings of complete isolation and mental health struggles of our modern unknown.”
Festival life isn’t for the faint of heart, however, and the film delves into several taboo subjects, such as politics, the use of psychedelics and the distinction between partying for the sake of partying, or “for something greater that’s healing.”
You can catch “Lightning in a Bottle: A Festival Story” this Monday at 4:00pm, June 20 at the Marina del Rey Film Festival at the Cinemark 18&XD in the Howard Hughes Center. The film was produced by Assemble Studios and executive produced by Iorna Handem and Rickey Williams. For more information on future screenings and ways to watch the film visit, www.libfilm.com.