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The ultimate utopian visions on film

How to make the universe a more chilled-out, liveable place? These films are a good place to start

This Sunday it's International Peace Day, a project set up in the hope that September 21 will become an institutionally recognised day around the world. Founded back in 1999 thanks to Peace One Day and the United Nations, the aim is simple, to create "an annual day of global unity, a day of intercultural cooperation on a scale that humanity has never known". All this week we'll be raising awareness in the hope that this Sunday will be the biggest Peace Day yet. Today, we're looking at the films that dreamt up a more chilled-out, liveable utopian world.


Threaded through with mystical symbols, this experimental collaboration between filmmakers Ben Rivers and Ben Russell, now out in the UK, stars musician Robert AA Lowe. Shot in three parts at a shaman-run commune in Estonia, in the Finnish wilderness and at a Norwegian black metal gig, it shows him moving through the world, trying to work out what utopia in secular times might mean.


This rousing, insightful Austrian documentary from The Riahi Brothers offers a snapshot of the state of non-violent resistance movements and the different forms they are taking around the world to safeguard the future – from the FEMEN group in Ukraine to Occupy Wall Street and the Indignados in Spain.


Selling access to home-made porn and holding public orgies is the MO by which Berlin-based activist NGO Fuck for Forest makes money for rescuing rain forests. A workable alternative model for community engagement? Polish director Michal Marczak hung out with the group to document their controversial activities, raising intriguing questions about the way we live today.


If you're after a utopia, where's the best place to look? Swedish director Maja Borg is surprised her search leads her to the US - to 97-year-old futurist Jacque Fresco's The Venus project, which advocates a resource-based system that's done away with money. Blending super-8 sci-fi sequences with moving reflections, the experimental doc is a farewell letter to Borg's past lover (Italian actress Nadya Cazan, who introduced her to Fresco's vision) and a call to humanity to let go of our failed economic system.


What if the creative minds of the world went on strike, and reformed a new society away from those who parasitically live off them? That's the premise of Objectivist cult philosopher Ayn Rand's epic '50s novel, set in a dystopian US and written with the gripping, persuasive wiles of lightly erotic pulp mystery but with the questionable merit of egging on a self-interested strain of rampant capitalists. The recent three-part film adaptation was a flop - which could be seen as cause for hope. File under "food for thought" or – we might say – "what not to do".


Shutting themselves away from the world to form their own miniature enclave of sexual experimentation and childlike games (even breaking the world record for running through the Louvre in an echo of a famed scene from Godard's Band of Outsiders), the young trio of cinephiles of Bernardo Bertolucci's drama – American exchange student Matthew, played by Michael Pitt, and twins Theo and Isabelle (Louis Garrel and Eva Green) – at first enjoy a kind of bohemian haven of free imagination. But as the 1968 riots erupt on the streets of Paris, their self-involved bubble is burst by the revolutionary tumult outside.


An ideal existence might be possible if we could repeat our days again and again until we got them right. At least, that's what TV weatherman and general asshole Bill Connors (Bill Murray) has to face in this Harold Ramis classic, when he keeps waking up pissed off in Punxsutawney to cover the annual Groundhog festivities. Besides, any real version of utopia should involve Bill Murray japes on a time loop, right?


Darren Aronofsky's unapologetically ambitious and grandiosely romantic sci-fi fantasy turns to esoteric mysticism to affirm our place in an ever-renewing universe as it tells of a doctor struggling to accept that his terminally ill wife – who is writing a story about a conquistador on a quest for the Tree of Life – is about to die. The film leaps forward to 2055, to an outer space of golden nebulas where the connection between all existence can be gleaned. Deep.


A tiny American town isolated in the mountains provides the perfect laboratory for social experiment, as an aspiring writer tries to morally invigorate the regular folk who inhabit the community. Enter Grace (Nicole Kidman), who is on the run from gangsters and must rely on their goodwill. But this is a Lars von Trier film, so we can be sure the Danish provocateur's mistrustful view of human nature will see any appearance of utopia on shaky ground, and the town bare its teeth eventually.


Jennie Livingston’s landmark indie doc captures the vibrant New York drag ball culture of the ‘80s, where ‘voguing’ originated and where surrogate families where formed by competing houses. The "realness" of their drag as they try to visually pass for heterosexual business executives and the like allowed this sub-culture to subvert and transform the aspirational doctrine of a straight, white culture that had shut them out, creating a world of the imagination in which they could belong.

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