Bonanza is a documentary film experience presented in a theatre space. The piece is heavily influenced by installation art, video art and film poems. The audience is presented with five films screens on which five individual films are projected. Sometimes they show the same scene, sometimes the same subject matter from different angles and sometimes 5 completely different images. What the projections all have in common is that they depict the life and turmoil of the residents of the small hamlet called Bonanza. Above the film screens within the theatre space is a miniature scale model of the town. This curiously sits above the screens and depicts the few buildings and roads that link together the residents of Bonanza. At times during the performance stage lighting highlights different houses and subtly depicts the changing of the seasons.

Bonanza is an isolated hamlet in the USA that has seven permanent residents. Each one loves the seclusion and the fact that they live separately from modern civilisation. The video projections eloquently convey that Bonanza runs on its own time and rules. We are introduced to the population individually and learn that they are mostly spiritual and religious people. At times they are candid on screen and well aware that the are being filmed. However, Bonanza is at its most powerful when the residents eventually open up and we discover the politics of living in such a small town and how the area is controlled by a committee who live almost 3 hours drive away.

Bonanza is definitely an intriguing watch and an original and compelling way to experience documentary film. When night-time is depicted the theatre lights dim and the lights on the miniature houses turn on. This reminds the audience of the remoteness and the vulnerability of the small town and adds to the visual experience.

The performance concludes by informing the audience that a lawsuit is taking place where several residents are suing the committee so the people of Bonanza can govern their village themselves. Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, Bonanza presents a small community as a fantastic, serious piece of documentary filmmaking that combines art, film and honest storytelling.

Reviews by Steven Fraser

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Performances

The Blurb

A cinematic portrait of a desolate mining town, the smallest in Colorado, USA. A microcosm of the world, the residents claim. Berlin portrays this world in miniature on a scale model of the town and five film screens.