is your chance to be heard!
Email us at:
and we'll post it here.
If you have any thoughts on Bums' Paradise, or the Albany Landfill.
If you have taken a Rabbit Reality Tour,
If you have been to a screening and have met Rabbit,
If you have used Bums' Paradise in a class room.
If you have taken a class to the Bulb
If you enjoy the Landfilll,
for walking dogs, making art, hanging out... whatever.
on in your head!
hear from you!
Wonderful film with good character development (often missing from
documentaries), and outstanding journalism. The story was developed
and told by the characters themselves, you just let the story unfold
without going on a crusade, a temptation that most journalists (Michael
Moorer comes to mind) can't seem to resist. Do another, please.
During the summer I went to a place called Bums Paradise in
the East Bay. It was an old dump or landfill where some artists
who were in major debt or were homeless came to live. They started
making art out of the debris. Anyway the city of Albany, next to
Berkeley, has been trying to tell people that they cant live
there anymore and they are not allowed to make art there. It has
been several years and the city is still trying to get rid of the
It was my friends 13th birthday and his mom had a friend who
made a movie about this place called Bums Paradise. Well we
were going to check it out. On the way there I had no idea what
to expect. We could have been going to a drug store for all I knew.
When we got there I was blown away! There were all these statues
all of made out of wood or metal. There was a giant sculpture of
a dragon bigger than a van and taller than one, too. A giant archway
made out of styrofoam stood at the entrance to the sculptures.
There were paintings along this one pathway, maybe fifty of them,
everything you could imagine. There were paintings on logs and old
pieces of sidewalk. One painting that really caught my eye. It was
a rendition of an intersection, but instead of humans in the cars
there were dogs. There were all different cars and dogs. In a big
red hot rod there was a muscle-bound bulldog with an earring and
a cigarette in his mouth and in a little blue racecar there was
a gray hound with a small race helmet and goggles.
Along the path ways there were random sculptures placed all over.
There was one of a flamingo and one of a dog. There was one of a
woman with her hands up to the sky as if she was thanking the sun
for its warmth and of a man who had a revolving head thanks to a
There was a huge round courtyard right in the middle of the landfill.
Its walls were made of anything and everything you could imagine,
rebar, coat hangers, bicycle wheels, rubber tires, and lots of other
junk. There were four big benches around a campfire that the homeless
people used to sit around and talk. There were small art works in
progress around sitting on makeshift tables.
Mad Marks castle is one of the coolest things about Bums
Paradise. There is a long concrete pathway to a kind of fort made
out of concrete. There was a part that had a roof over it then you
could walk up a little spiral staircase to a patio shaped like a
heart. Mad Mark only works on his castle at night because he thinks
that the CIA is watching him from the buildings across the highway.
He is kind of crazy.
I saw Bum's Paradise at the Red Vic on Tuesday. I
wanted to say
thanks, very refreshing, a privilege really, and I was impressed that
you were able to create what seemed like a clear window into that
world, which I'm sure is actually a monumental feat of intention and
devotion. Watching it felt like entering the community.
I ride my bike out at the landfill and greet the ghosts and
appreciate that it's one of the few places around here that's so off
the grid -- but I didn't know the history behind it and I'll buy the
movie feeling that I'm donating to the spirit of it (then I'll work
on getting a DVD player).
So thanks again and keep up the good work.
Wednesday, April 7, 2004 3:20 AM CDT
I can't sleep. So I thought I'd tell you guys
(youze guys Philly talk) about our wonderful
experience at the Ashland Independent Film
Steve, Connor and I went while Ryan was in school.
We saw two documentaries "Bum's Paradise" and
"Nothing Without You". We enjoyed both films.
Bum's Paradise is about a landfill in the Bay Area,
(actually called Albany Landfill) where the homeless
have settled for several years. The view from the
landfill is gorgeous. San Francisco across the
water and the skyline outlined by a gorgeous sky.
It's quite picturesque (I like that word, it sounds
educated if a word can be such).
The homeless have settled there and built their
shacks, erected tents, and made a life for
themselves. The documentary is filmed by a
man named Robert "Rabbit" Berringer who is a
resident of the landfill. Rabbit has a degree
in Fine Arts from Berkely and fell on hard times
and has been homeless for several years.
After seeing the documentary, the audience gets
to question the makers of the film. Rabbit did
the majority of the filming because he had access
to the folks at the landfill day and night and
because the producer/director of the film had
to work full time at another occupation.
We met Rabbit and asked some questions of him
and found him very likeable.
On Saturday as we drove through Ashland, we saw
Rabbit sitting on a bench with some other folks
and pulled our car over to the side of Main Street
and asked Rabbit if he had plans for that evening.
He said "no, I don't" and "who are you people"
(are you laughing yet). We said "we met you after
the screening of Bum's Paradise". "Would you like
to come to our house for dinner tonight, we're having
sloppy joes". Rabbit said "Sure". So Rabbit squeezed
into the front seat with me while Steve drove us home
and Connor, Ryan and Cameron were crowded into the back
I apologized to Rabbit for only serving Sloppy Joe's
that night. He responded "hey that's okay, whatever
you get from the dumpster is fine with me". We
talked at the dinner table and enjoyed our gourmet
meal. After dinner, Rabbit, Steve, Connor and
I watched The Three Stooges. (Ryan and Cameron
opted to play video games). There was a marathon
on one of the channels. The four of us were
hootin and hollerin. Belly laughs all around.
It was so much fun. 50 years later and the
stooges are still hilarious.
Rabbit stayed at our house until about 9:30 that
night. Steve had to get up at 5:00 so he drove
Rabbit back downtown to where he was staying.
Monday, Rabbit called our house to tell us there
was a free showing of Bum's Paradise at 9:30 p.m.
so Connor and I headed downtown and found out it
was being shown in a bar. Connor being a minor,
he was not allowed in. So we got to spend another
hour with Rabbit talking outside of Louie's Bar
and Grill and then RAbbit walked us back part of
the way to where we had our car parked. Rabbit
told those of us not allowed into the screening
because we had minors with us that he wouldn't
watch the documentary if his friends were not
allowed in. So we had the pleasure of Rabbit's
company again for about an hour Monday night.
Connor and I gave Rabbit a goodbye hug and as
we turned to walk back to our car, I felt the
tears course down my face. I told Connor
I was crying because I hadn't met such a gentle
soul as Rabbit in a very long time.
I bought two copies of Bum's Paradise. One to keep
and one to loan out to anyone interested. At $20
bucks a pop, I couldn't resist.
Thank you Rabbit for your fine company. I know you
enjoyed our company as well.
Rabbit (and cc to Tomas in gratitude too)
Tomas was in Milwaukee at the 1st Annual Milwaukee International Film
Fest last week screening Bums Paradise. He was selling something
at end of movie but I didnt know he was so far in the hole until
I went to web site.
Thanks for making the film. It touched me very deeply. I was homeless
once for 4 months then lived with my folks for a few humiliating years.
Id send you and the film $ but Ive been unemployed for
over 2.5 years except for a few months work. My last job was computer
work but Im an artist at heart and paint when I can. I face
the mental health challenges some of the people on the peninsula faced.
Sometimes it sucks. Other times its freeing.
I can still drive a car and was given one recently. This weekend,
I was coming off the off ramp. There was a young man. Red from the
cold. Backpack on. Holding the cardboard sign that he was traveling
and needed $. I only had a few $s so I gave him a $1. Then I
thought of what you said, what the people said, and what the movie
showed. I wondered if I was less skeptical if he was really traveling
and more open to give to him without worry about being taken in for
Personally now I worry about losing my house. Its cold here
without one. Ive worked awful damn hard to stay sane and sober.
I equate my possible future homeless with a sinking to insanity. But
your film somewhat showed me else wise. That I could find a way to
live with dignity if I lose my house.
I enjoyed the movie at the Red Vic tonight.
The homeless problem has always been controversial. People have a
think they know they problem, have no idea about the problem, blame
it on the
homeless people, blame it on people who go to Starbucks, blame it
blame it on the mental institutions.
But an opinion began to form after watching the movie. - we have
(capitalistic) that has no room, acceptance or understanding for the
who don't fit and don't want to fit into this box full of valuable
What do we do with people who don't want to do a 9 - 5, but also don't
to live in a big house, with a big car, and big jewelry. There are
people who mentally can't hold down a job even if they wanted too.
because we have built our society on this system, it fails those who
use it in the way it is intended.
The truth is I am just a girl who has never had to worry about where
meal would ! come from....I like living in a home, I like driving
a car with
automatic locks and air-conditioning. I like camping alot, but more
weeks and I am ready to have get back and play computer games and
buy a new
pair of shoes, I fit into this type of society just right - but growing
up in the beautiful wilderness of Alaska and with a mother who has
illness, I understand two types of realities and combination of those
One - The desire to live outside. To feel the sun, to smell the rain
of office lights and smells of plaster and plastic. To be away from
people and too many things and places. Peace.
Two - With some mental illness, the mind can be chaotic enough without
all the stimulation and stress that comes from too many people and
expectations. Just finding peace and takin! g care of yourself is
a full time
job. And being able to be left alone with the ability to seek social
interaction when desired is in a way it's own therapy even if not
So tell me - I understand that everyone is different and each may
own desires of what they want out of life. But what do you want and
you think many others who are in your position want? To be left alone,
be respected. Understandable.
But what about the city bums, are they a different breed? The golden
park? trash is strewn everywhere and toilet paper full of shit when
move on. Am I wrong and selfish for not wanting this just because
got my coffee at Starbucks? How do we co-exist peacefully?
My brother and I thought if we ever make it wealthy - we would be
patches of land throughout t! he united states, and homeless people
there. They could be given sections, first come first serve, and do
what they want. If they want to live in a tent, if they want to build
wood, concrete whatever shelter they can....no homeowners association
The only thing that is required is respect for your neighbor. (enough
space that you are not on top of each other) with foliage to offer
from everyone- Only the basics would be offered....toilets, showers,
drinking water. Each section would have enough area to grow your own
The government should offer this, because just like I think John Paul
think) existence should be respected - but the government would never
it would be admittance to failure of the system, so then it is only
Do you think something like this would ! work? And if so for what
of the homeless? And if not...what do you think will?
Oh, and if out of my own ignorance of saying something insensitive
"ignorant' I apologize. I've tried to consciously be respectful,
but if you
don't know what you don't know then....you just don't know.
Rabbit and I loved what you wrote last November, and Rabbit has been
that he is working on a response for you... How long has it been now?
My response is to check out Dignity Village in Portland: www.outofthedoorways.org
Rabbit and I screened Bums' Paradise there, and it's damn cool.
Living - The Bay Area's Reality Tour
Gagnon took the 24 hour Rabbit Reality Tour!
to read story
Are You On The Bus? Or, Are You Not On The Bus?
Director (and Life-Adventurer) Tomas McCabe blithely indulges a remark
on the posture of society in his spell-casting debut of Bums
Paradise at the 1st Annual Milwaukee International Film Festival.
Tomas bravely crawls into and sets up shop in a motley crue encampment
comprised of homeless persons in sun-stroked landfill
near San Francisco. This wasteland provides its residents
with sanctity and a place they can call home. By Irony it just so
happens to be the physical place that embodies the very excrement
of a society built upon instant gratification and excessive waste.
The residents of the Albany landfill choose this for their personal
lifestyle over that of city-life just the same as many
would chose Pepsi over Coke or visa versa. Tomas gifts the viewer
with a rare and intimate quest into the definition inherent to disposable.
By invitation only, McCabe gets his feet wet and his fingernails dirty
in comparable style to Anthropologist Dianne Fossey for an insider
look at the microcosm of his subjects. Tomas provides a pointed account
of their lives through interview and narrative, with the help of one
of the landfills residents.
The viewer is drawn into this ominous world by a polite and generous
introduction to the participants of this film in just another
homeless documentary fashion. Far from that expectation, the
viewer is then kept in the scope of their space with breakthrough
cinematography that makes The Blair Witch Project seem
like a family home video worthy of an award on a popular television
show for kids (which I wont name). Tomas McCabes shoot
from the hip style allows the viewer the opportunity to see
life as it happens. Texture, emotion, and sensitivity to intimacy
are well shaped and framed from this vantage point- A true testament
to a thorough editing process.
Somberness alongside Solidarity pervades in a subtle undercurrent
to this filmmaking. Contrasting the warrants of perhaps the traditional
white picket fence richness of the American Dream, narrator
Rabbit, a longtime resident of the landfill at Albany,
bespeaks that the alternative to that dream is just as valid a choice,
while the camera displays those thought-provoking realities.
Mixology of tribal background noise coupled to a resolute score of
rhythm and beats adds to the confusing elements on many clips which
display the varying and often paralyzing properties of his subjects
personalities. Schizophrenia, Bi-Polaris, OCD, and a myriad of other
personality quirks that are typically wide-eyed from fear by the general
public are played with harmoniously to the films emulsion. This
allows a sensible comfort level, and even a dib of sincerity, to surface
from within each character.
This groundbreaking ceremony of the human condition provokes the morality
of Americas perceptions of normalcy and acceptance. The freedom
of self _expression, self sustenance, self indulgence, self reliance,
self sufficiency, and even self (as viewed by others through preconceived
notions) are microscopically displayed through Tomas lenses
in glaring terms.
His view irrefutable- and his vision incontrovertible, Tomas goes
beyond recording the history of this phenomenal space in the universe.
He begs the question scene after scene: What is value?
What is Art? What is Acceptance? What is Awareness?
What is Community? What is Home? Where does
mine end, and yours begin in a FREE
One gets the sense that there is an undeniable presence of community,
art, culture, class, and order. The subjects are inclusive
as perhaps opposed to exclusive in their relationship
to the camera and invite us to challenge the truth of their existence.
This is directly attributable to McCabes strong understanding
of the importance of their right to do as they please, just like the
rest of humanity.
The simplicity of democracy is emphasized in the individualism of
_expression that the participants have created over the years. Displays
of artwork have evolved on their stretch of land which echo sentiments
of society. Formed largely out of what is at hand, the indigents
show art and culture a thing or two in their
fascinating and provocative works.
Worthy of recognition as a prominent advocacy for the support of ongoing
involvement in the rights of Homeless Persons and an emphatic victory
for awareness of Mental Illnesses, this piece can be heralded as a
victory for this small Albany Peninsula Community and perhaps the
nation as a whole.
Perhaps this is even a great personal victory for Tomas McCabe. His
expanded understanding of freedom and self _expression is very evident
in this work. I harbor no doubt in my mind this experience has been
influenced directly by the relationships he formed with those from
Ever Forward, Tomas. Be Free.
On a personal note, I just want to thank you for having the vision
and the dedication to bring this story to light.
Best of Luck!
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