Some may come and some may go, we shall surely pass...
We are but a moment's sunlight, fading in the grass.
-- The Youngbloods, "Get Together"
As Jesse Colin Young crooned these prophetic words in his hippie anthem of love and brotherhood in 1969, the sunlight of utopian idealism was fading for good upon the grasses of Rancho Olompali. From November of 1967 to August of 1969, the northern face of Mount Burdell was inhabited by a self-sustaining band of outsiders known throughout the Bay Area as the Chosen Family – Marin County’s archetypal entry into the legend and lore of the '60s hippie commune movement.
The Family came into being during the Summer of Love in 1967, when Marin businessman and fortunate son Donald McCoy, transformed by the Haight-Ashbury allure, "grew a beard, turned on and dropped out.” Using money from his inheritance, he leased the mansion, buildings, dormitory and pool at Rancho Olompali, a former country estate with storied roots. He invited a couple dozen like-minded friends and their children to join him and his three daughters, and together they embarked on a grand experiment.
The Family's commune quickly became a hip mecca, dubbed by one reporter as “The White House of Hippiedom.” Its numbers included a former nun, a nightclub entertainer, a Russian émigré, and a beloved school principal whose career had been cut short after she publicly admitted to smoking marijuana. Janis Joplin and members of the Jefferson Airplane and other popular local bands visited the ranch; the Grateful Dead, who had lived at Olompali for a brief stint in 1966, shot the back cover of their legendary Aoxomoxoa album there.
Olompali: A Hippie Odyssey is a feature-length documentary about an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary times, whose life is forever changed by the social upheaval going on around him. It's the classic Horatio Alger story, but in reverse - our hero manages to go from riches to rags in a matter of months by his own design. Why does a man from a privileged and conservative background abruptly change course to pursue such a different path? Was he a visionary or a mad man? Cult leader or revered benefactor? Whether perceived as a cautionary tale or inspirational allegory, this film will explore these questions and more, presenting a portrait of a compelling personality who exemplifies a radical transformation in American society. It will be a mind-blowing journey into the darkness of one man’s soul that ends in the vindication of his quest for enlightenment and a better world.