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5 Great Documentaries For A Rough Economy

By Mike Everleth ⋅ May 3, 2009

The current crisis in the economy is starting to show faint glimmers of hope, but is the American age of conspicuous consumption over? People are starting evaluate their lifestyle choices with a little more clarity these days it seems, so here’s a list of five documentaries with great examples of how to live on the cheap:

1. Random Lunacy: Videos From the Road Less Traveled, directed by Vic Zimet and Stephanie Silber.

Movie poster of Poppa Neutrino and family

Lots of people are upset about losing their homes, but meet a guy who’s completely content and happy that he’s never owned one, much less ever paid rent in his entire life. He’s Poppa Neutrino, the world’s hardest-working homeless guy. Never one to settle down, Neutrino has toured the world with his merry band of entertainers, the Flying Neutrinos, also known as his wife and kids. This is a family that literally sings for its supper — and dances, plays their own music and have even run their own Mexican circus. And hey, lets say you want to go on a fancy cruise, but you’re homeless and have no money. Then just build your own raft for a romantic jaunt across the Atlantic! Don’t think it can be done? Well, it’s all been extensively documented via home video by the Neutrinos and lovingly assembled by directors Zimet and Silber.

Where to get Random Lunacy: Filmbaby

2. Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea, directed by Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer.

Older woman stands next to golf cart in the desert

Ok, so maybe going the homeless route isn’t the preferred way to go. Then, how about moving to a new area where nobody else wants to live? Welcome to one of the most desolate places on Earth: California’s Salton Sea! Well, it’s not that absolutely lives near this environmental disaster — a giant salt pond that churns up dead fish by the millions — but your neighbors are an oddly eclectic bunch who don’t give up on the dream that the once prosperous Salton Sea resort will return to its booming glory days in the ’50s.  You’ll be greeted on arrival by Naked Don (yes, he’s naked), grab a beer from Hungarian refugee Hunky Daddy and watch born again Leonard build his Salvation Mountain monument to Jesus. And that’s just a few of the crazies you’ll meet in Metzler and Springer’s helluva fun documentary that’s narrated by none other than the king of bad taste, John Waters.

Where to get Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea: Amazon | Netflix | GreenCine | Facets

3. Waiting for NESARA, directed by Zeb Haradon.

Drawing of Jesus in a spaceship

Lord knows nobody ever got rich by paying taxes, so maybe it’s time to join a group that’s using prayer to try to abolish the IRS. By praying just a little bit harder than everybody else, the Open Mind Forum, which is made up of excommunicated Mormons, is going to bring Jesus back to Earth in his mighty spaceship to lay waste to the IRS and spread the wealth equally to everyone across the globe. Don’t laugh. Jesus kicked the money changers out the temple, didn’t he? He’s just going to do it again on a much larger scale and if you don’t believe, maybe he’ll just hold back your fair share out of spite. Then where will you be? Thankfully, director Zeb Haradon has provided this documentary vessel to carry the Open Mind Forum’s teachings so that we can all prepare for our monetary salvation.

Where to get Waiting for NESARA: Amazon | Netflix | Facets

4. B.I.K.E., directed by Anthony Howard and Jacob Septimus.

DVD cover featuring a man riding a tall bike

Reduce, reuse and bicycle is the philosophy by the anarcho-punk activist group the Black Label Bicycle Club, which believes in abolishing modern American car culture and replacing it with bikes made out of recycled materials. Thank goodness no one’s ever figured out how to recycle alcohol after you’ve drunk it because Anthony Howard, who tries joining the Brooklyn branch of Black Label, is already drunk enough from the lifetime supply of alcohol he drinks on what appears to be a weekly basis. Watching Howard’s crazy drunken antics as he desperate tries to prove himself to the group, B.I.K.E. shows that even a society of outcasts has people that they cast out.

Where to get B.I.K.E.: Amazon | Netflix | Facets

5. Nomads and No-Zones, directed by Greta Snider and Vanessa Renwick.

DVD cover featuring a person wearing a pair of Converse sneakers

This is actually a compilation of several short documentaries that offer a wealth of options for “economic alternative” living. Want to learn how to go a year without wearing shoes? Watch Renwick’s Crowdog. Need to learn how not to plan a train-hopping vacation? Watch Snider’s Portland. Want to learn all about the healthful benefits of drinking your own urine for self-sustenance? Watch Snider’s aptly-titled Urineman. Lastly, is your wife getting on your case about all the junk you leave lying all over the house? Find out how to turn that garbage into art and transform your home into a museum in Richart!

Where to get Nomads and No-Zones: Amazon | Netflix | Facets