The father–son relationship can be a fragile truce, with both parties careful to stay within the boundaries of a long-negotiated treaty. Certain subjects are safe, while others are just not talked about. But what if you have had almost no contact with your father since he left your family thirty years before? Kaleo La Belle, the director of BEYOND THIS PLACE, grapples with this question when he sets out on a 500-mile bike trip with his hippie father, Cloud Rock.
Psychedelic drugs and bicycling are the two things that Cloud Rock has devoted his life to, and Kaleo spends the movie trying to get to know and understand his father. He says in the Q&A posted on the SilverDocs website: “As a filmmaker, I am interested in what makes a person who they are, the crutches, vices, genius and uniqueness of each individual, in their complexity, the juxtaposition between who we are, and who we want to be.” Along with the bicycling with his father, Kaleo goes in search of those who can help him appreciate Cloud Rock’s choices. He visits aging hippies on Maui and in San Francisco, who were members of the commune where he was born, and then to his mother in snowy Detroit.
After thirty years of separation, Kaleo and Cloud Rock need to find the common on which to build their own peace treaty. Perhaps Kaleo’s relationship with his own young children will let him see Cloud Rock’s choice through the eyes of a father, and not a son. But maybe Cloud Rock’s stubborn refusal to accept any responsibility for Kaleo’s childhood will corrode whatever bridge is built between the two. It is an inside look at one example of the complicated nature that is the father–son bond.
I was fortunate to watch this film as a screener for SilverDocs, and I have been mulling it over ever since. Interestingly, while searching for more information about the film, I learned about a novel with the same title from 1953. In the novel, a young man goes searching for the father he had never met. He meets his father’s old friends who relate stories about his father, who is in prison and not allowed to have visitors. Is Cloud Rock La Belle locked in the solitary confinement of drugs? See for yourself at the two screenings of BEYOND THIS PLACE: Tuesday, June 22, 9:30pm, and Thursday, June 24, 4:00pm.
— Matthew Radcliff is the organizer for the WIFV Documentary Roundtable and a son fortunate to have picked a great father. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!