Dust & Illusions

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Dust & Illusions
Directed by Olivier Bonin
Produced by Olivier Bonin
Didier Leclerc
Written by Olivier Bonin
Starring Larry Harvey, John Law, William Binzen, Adrian Roberts, Flaming Lotus Girls
Narrated by Tom Kennedy
Music by Samuel Fajner
Cinematography Olivier Bonin
Edited by Arthur Guibert
Release date(s)
  • March 28, 2009 (2009-03-28) (USA)
Running time 80 minutes
Country France, USA
Language English
Budget $138,000

Dust & Illusions is a 2009 documentary film about Burning Man and its founders. The film has been featured at several film festivals, and was shown at the San Francisco DocFest at The Roxie in San Francisco in October 2009.

From the 1970s into the origins of the Burning Man festival, until today, the documentary film Dust & Illusions explores the evolution of the now largest counter-cultural event in North America. Using never before seen archival footage and interviews, director Olivier Bonin brings a critical perspective about Burning Man and reveals past memories of a few that have influenced the festival in powerful ways.

Dust & Illusions looks at 30 years of Burning Man history back to the late 1970s. Through interviews with 21 people, including co-founder Larry Harvey, the film details the philosophies that fueled the creation of the festival, and its evolution from a small gathering of friends to the huge event it is today. The film offers a new perspective on the event's meaning, and questions whether its organizers are more concerned about making sure the show is ready when the gate opens or they still truly engage in building a community and fostering art.


  • When Adrian Roberts talks about burning his shade structure, the footage is actually of Charlie Gadeken’s great paintings at Burning Man 1996.
  • Charlie Gadeken mentions that Desert Siteworks happened the year previous to Burning Man. He meant that Desert Siteworks actually happened during the year before Burning Man. Historically Desert Siteworks, which was organized by William Binzen & Judy West and many others including John Law, first happened in April 1993 at Black Rock Hot Springs, then in 1994 at Trego Hot Springs, and finally in 1995 at Frog Pond (Bordello) Hot Springs. All these hot springs are located on the edge of the Black Rock Desert flats (playa).[1]
  • In 1996, people didn’t die from being run over in their tent, but were severely injured for the rest of their lives. On the other end, before the event opened its “doors”, Michael Fury who was working for the event killed himself in a motorcycle accident while driving on the dry lake bed (playa) used by the Burning Man event.
  • The black and white picture, where people are having a party, throwing cake, playing with blow-up balloons and water, are truly Suicide Club pictures. They were taken by Greg Mancuso in 1977, the year the Club formed.
  • With regards to Paul Addis’ case the Burning Man organization (Black Rock Limited Liability Corporation) received a subpoena from the Nevada court, asking them to produce all the bills related to the reconstruction of the wooden effigy (aka the Burning Man).
  • Re-enactment of the story told by Larry Harvey of the people who covered themselves in mud was played by Arthur Guibert who edited the film, and his girlfriend. He wasn’t all that pleased about doing that scene, and actually insisted in the first place that the director plays the part.
  • Adrian Roberts talks about his first Burning Man in 1993. The sequence shows the burning of the wooden effigy during that exact year. In the footage you see lightnings at two separate times. The lightnings were not added to the image, but were actually recorded that same night. That night it rained a lot and there was a little panic on the playa. One camera crew left in a rush with their RV, making many people laugh.
  • In 1990, Michael Hopkins talks about how he climbed on the Burning Man wooden effigy. At the same time you can see a picture represented that story. That picture was taken by William Binzen at the very time Hopkins was dousing the left leg with gasoline.
  • The sequence where the person who brought the gong instrument to Baker Beach is being questioned by the police is real, and was recorded that night. Michael Hopkins and Larry Harvey were both hiding behind the crowd for a while, but then decided to go talk to the police directly.
  • Adrian Roberts mentions in the film that the Burning Man organization (Black Rock Limited Liability Corporation) spends tens of thousands of dollars on the Burning Man wooden effigy. The actual budget in the recent years actually reached $200,000 for the figure and its pedestal. It has been a long time criticized spending, which diverts away funds that could be made available to artists.
  • In one of the last scenes of the film, Larry Harvey goes up on a stage at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Just as he enters the stage, a voice says “Allelujah”


  1. ^ Doherty, Brian (July 2006). This Is Burning Man. Benbella Books. ISBN 978-1-932100-86-0. Retrieved 2014-06-13. )

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