In this current climate, there’s something incredibly enticing about the subject matter of Gabriel Miller’s documentary, Wonderlust. He never paints living “off the grid” for this small community in the middle of the desert as a glamourous life, but what we might call squalor, the residents call paradise.
Wonderlust is a profile of an area known as Slab City. It’s an abandoned Marine base located forty miles north of the Mexico border. Here lives a community of people who have either been abandoned by society or abandoned society themselves (depends on which side of the coin you look). A sampling of its hermit-like residents includes a preacher, Dave, who is in love with a person with schizophrenia, Momma Liz, a range runner with a family of five, a psychologist, and a professor.
“…a community of people who have either been abandoned by society or abandoned society themselves…”
The documentary is a mixture of human-interest stories and a glimpse into how a society like this can operate. Director Miller does a fantastic job presenting this community of outcasts—warts and all. He shows that many of Slab City’s residents are so attracted to the idea of disconnecting from society that they are willing to do without the basic comforts of modern living.
Economically, the community sustains itself from either the social security payments received from the older citizens or from hunting for scrap metal in a nearby valley. The scrap comes from a dangerous region that the military still uses as an active bombing range.
Law and order are maintained by Slab City’s unofficial Sheriff, who tells the story of shooting his stepfather when he was six, while the slimebag was raping his mother. He took justice into his own hands because the police would do nothing to stop the abuse, and as a result, his family shunned him.
"…the critical aspects of society that are necessary to sustain itself as a viable community."