Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa

"Very Good"

Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa Review


If you've ever imagined existence "off the grid" in a secluded wilderness to be a kind of noble, bohemian, hippie way to live, Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa should prove a sobering experience. Spending some time with the residents of a mesa some 25 miles away from the nearest town in nowhere, New Mexico, Off the Grid shows us a hard and boring life where food and water are hard to come by, thieves make off with everything, and your neighbor is probably completely insane.

But it's life on your own terms. Right? For some, this is the American dream: Answering to no one (with few exceptions, there's no police out here -- the residents make their own rules and enforce them), residents on the mesa scrape together their lives one day at a time. It's not so far from civilization that starvation is a real concern. The biggest problem that comes up in this 68-minute film is the threat of runaway teenagers, who stumble into the area and proceed to steal whatever they want. The "Nowhere Kids" set up camp a few miles away and eventually are called to a meeting of the "council elders" of the mesa to answer for what they've done. Justice is essentially a form of probation, probably backed up (off camera) by the threat of violence. (The mesa is a heavily-armed area, as you might imagine.)

Fortunately, most of this doc is more lighthearted. We only vaguely understand the reasons for some of the mesa residents moving out to the middle of nowhere (there are plenty of conspiracy theories to go around, but simple insanity also seems to be a pretty common issue). Directors Randy and Jeremy Stulberg give us the expected lay of the land in efficient, short order. We see how they bathe (once a month in a natural pool nearby), how they eat (butching animals they raise and trucking in plenty more), and what passes for leisure time (the occasional hoe-down, plenty of marijuana). A few residents have kids. Some are saner than others, obviously victims of hard times. Some are huge junkies with nowhere else to go, but the mesa takes them in with open arms... so long as they don't steal from their neighbors.

The funny irony is how these "off the grid" types are so reliant on the grid to survive. They cart in water and food and even ponder calling law enforcement to help with the Nowhere Kids. The only reason they don't is the spectre of what happened the last time the cops came over, which ended with a guy burning down his greenhouse full of pot, killing his small army of dogs trapped inside. He's a now a martyr and a hero to the residents of the mesa.

Fascinating stuff, and something to consider when everything goes to hell. This is how the world ends, it seems. Not with a whimper, but with a converted bus, a shotgun, and a solar panel out front.

The DVD includes deleted scenes, extra interviews, and a commentary track.



Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa

Facts and Figures

Run time: 68 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 20th May 2008

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Randy Stulberg, Jeremy Stulberg

Producer: Randy Stulberg, Jeremy Stulberg, Eric Juhola

Contactmusic


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