Last Tuesday Spaceland Productions presented two screenings of the documentary film Beyond This Place at the Vista Theatre. Angelenos showed up in droves to see Swiss director Kaleo La Belle’s moving road film about reconciling with his estranged father, along with live musical accompaniment by Brooklyn musician Sufjan Stevens and Portland’s Raymond Raposa of Castanets.
In the Q&A, La Belle explained that he and Stevens are childhood friends from Detroit. La Belle directed Crooked River, a 2006 doc about Stevens returning to his roots in Michigan, so it was only fitting they would once again collaborate to bring La Belle’s troubled family past to the screen. Stevens and Raposa scored the film’s soundtrack and have performed it with the film at screenings around the US. The title track can be downloaded for free here.
Beyond This Place is a thought-provoking film on the nature of responsibility. La Belle’s father, Cloud Rock La Belle, has been mostly vacant from his life for thirty years, too busy cycling and taking drugs to keep up with the son he named Ganja. (Kaleo later changed it.) An oddly worded letter- “share with your father-” prompts Kaleo to invite him on a cycling trip to Spirit Lake near Mount St. Helens. This physically grueling journey to a volcano is brimming with emotional eruptions as Kaleo confronts his father about years of neglect. Beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest is interspersed with close ups of Cloud Rock explaining his love of psychedelics, personal freedom and a very unique stance on parenting- “you pick your parents, so don’t bug me about problems with me.”
This film explores the fallout of the hippie culture of the 1960s and 70s on the children it produced. Kaleo interviews friends of his parents on their commune in Maui as well as the children they abandoned. One woman strives to be a devoted parent after her own experience of accidentally overdosing on acid-laced sugar cubes as a child. In the most heartbreaking scene of the film, Kaleo interviews his homeless half-brother, Starbuck, who roams the wilds of Malibu and sleeps under a bridge. Starbuck took LSD as a child with Cloud Rock and has been lost to his family for years.
Cloud Rock’s infectious smile and enthusiasm for his unique world view save him from becoming a vile character. Kaleo hilariously admits in voiceover “what is this fucking love I feel for Cloud Rock.” The audience feels it too. Be sure to check out this excellent story about family and forgiveness if it comes around again. In the meantime, tide yourself over with Sufjan Stevens’s other multimedia project: BQE, in which he live accompanied a gorgeous film dedicated to the Brooklyn-Queens-Expressway–oh, and there’s hula hoops.