Charles MacFarland, Synetech Video, 2001.
CHARLES MACFARLAND of Synetech Video takes his film audience in two overlapping
directions. Since the early 1990s he has produced what he calls "New Age"
videos, marketing them primarily to naturist audiences. Later in the 1990s, he
began filming naturist life at clothing-optional sites in France and the Czech
Republic, foregoing the New Age themes and focusing on the pleasure of more "conventional"
naturist recreation and the amenities of various resorts. (See related article
elsewhere in this N.)
His latest contributions to Syne-tech's collection are Life in Eden
and Freedom Weekends, both completed in 2001. The former is a clear example
of MacFarland's New Age approach to naturist video; the latter is a naturist
destination documentary of Australia highlighting two nude beaches and one naturist
Both videos articulate MacFarland's vision of naturism, with his heart - apparently
- more closely aligned with the visual messages offered in Life in Eden,
and his view of more customary naturist values favorably portrayed in Freedom
Life in Eden, MacFarland says, gives images of unconventional
naturist activities. MacFarland is concerned that too many naturists are content
to sit within the supposed safety of their club walls, allowing themselves to
be bound - albeit clothes-free - by customary norms. Life in Eden, he says,
depicts the possibilities of a life more free, one that is both naked and truly
unbound by outdated conventions.
What does Life in Eden show us by way of illustrating the freedoms
that far too many naturists fail to enjoy? The video opens with a nude young
woman performing a private dance at the edge of a deserted Australian beach.
Afterwards she imitates a wild cat and then rolls about in the surf. Most naturists,
MacFarland informs us, value water, whether it be enjoyed in the ocean, river,
or swimming pool. The woman concludes her sequence by doing a dance at night
twirling a baton lit at both ends with fire.
The next sequence involves three young women meeting at a friend's house for
the day. MacFarland introduces the sequence with the video's core theme by saying,
"Eden is something we can build in our lives." We can enjoy the full
freedom of naturism, he explains, at the beach, at resorts, on public streets
and at our homes.
The gorgeous naked ladies splash about in the outdoor pool, throw balls to
each other, paddle through something MacFarland calls a "water ballet,"
and stage a water fight on the pool deck. After sunning themselves for a time,
they go inside for some yoga exercises and - apparently to provide motion for
the camera - begin imitating cats, writhing against each other's bodies.
The final run of scenes documents a naturist house party consisting of both
men and women. There are even brief shots of participants with less-than-ideal
bodies. The revelers dance, do some drumming, wear funny hats, drink, swim in
the pool, oil their bodies and practice some fire dancing, play nude Twister,
and conclude by taking showers.
At one point they begin to wear mildly exotic and playfully erotic "costumes"
as they dance the night away. (In 20 or 30 years you might expect to see these
same people partying in lingerie at select nudist clubs here in North America.)
There are no explicitly erotic scenes in this video, although the sensuous
side of nudity is certainly explored. The question is how this film depicts
"unconventional" naturism. Naturist viewers will surely ask themselves,
What does Life in Eden portray that we have not seen many times over in "conventional"
naturist and nudist settings? How is it a friendly critique of the naturism
most of us are familiar with and what does it offer that we do not experience
Splashing in the ocean surf? Skinny-dipping in a backyard swimming pool? Play-acting
as animals? Throwing balls to one another? Fire dancing? House parties? Dancing
with fanciful clothes? Each naturist will have his or her own ways of enjoying
life, but none of these things is alien to even the most closeted of nudists.
Life in Eden is thus a visually pleasant excursion through the playful
activities of young, lithe females common - so it appears from MacFarland's
videos - to Australia's Byron Bay community. His contention throughout the video
that most naturists have yet to enjoy the complete freedom implied by naturist
(and New Age) ideals, and that we should be concerned that we do not fall into
the trap of conforming to even naturist conventions, is well taken. Some of
his previous work, however, may be more successful in showing the kinds of activities
that are both consistent with naturist values yet ignored or rejected as too
extreme by most naturists.
Freedom Weekends is a different kind of video altogether. If
you want an idea of what naturist life is like on Australian beaches and at
naturist clubs, this film might do the trick.
The three segments in Freedom Weekends consist of documentary style
footage of a naturist carnival held at Samurai Beach, the "Nude Olympics"
held at Swanbourne Beach, and the grounds and people of the Sunseekers naturist
The weather at the two beach festivals was not kind to the naked participants.
On both occasions, however, at Samurai Beach near Sydney on the southeast coast
and at Swanbourne Beach near Perth on the southwest coast, event organizers
decided to proceed with plans and host a variety of games and competitions for
children and adults.
Naturist club social directors would do well to watch this video just to get
some fun ideas for inexpensive activities to entertain members and guests on
busy weekends. The number of people obviously having an Aussie hoot with little
more than some leaky buckets is amazing.
Three- and four-legged races, relays, an egg toss, sand sculpture, body painting
and swim contests only begin to list the creativity these organizers show in
keeping people laughing throughout an atmospheric mix of wind, rain and sun.
A balloon volleyball game, a "crab" race in which couples must keep
beach balls held between them by their torsos, a relay race involving the fast
eating of fruit, and "best bum" contests added more innocent playfulness
to the day's frolics.
Also near Perth is the 30-year-old naturist club Sunseekers. MacFarland follows
up his documentation of naturist beach life at Swanbourne by contrasting it
with a pleasant, though not luxurious, landed club.
MacFarland gives potential visitors all they need to know about the amenities
of Sunseekers, from its tennis, miniten and badminton courts to its swimming
pool, clubhouse and overnight facilities.
If the video is indicative of Australian naturist life, then nude recreation
Down Under is to be envied. The people filmed are comfortable with MacFarland,
and the children cavort spontaneously as if living to scamper about in front
of his camera. Here we see family naturism at its best.
In Freedom Weekends MacFarland captures an accurate slice of naturist
life. The people are real and not selected for their youth and beauty. There
are young and old, fat and thin, active and sedentary. They may not twirl fiery
wands or slink about like cats, but they are real in their own human way.
Naturism may be about more - as MacFarland likes to say - than enjoying a
day under the sun or in the privacy of a club compound. But for many of us,
if we could get even this on a regular basis, our lives would take on a whole
Charles MacFarland, Synetech Video Co., 2002.
RUNNING NAKED USED TO refer only to streaking. Not anymore. Organized
nude fun runs are sprinting and loping all across North America. In one of his
most recent naturist videos, Charles MacFarland of Synetech Video shows that
Australia is in on it, too, and may be a step ahead of us in running naked in
Running Out of Clothes opens abruptly with Sun Leisure Nature Resorts
2000 Sun State Nude Fun Run. Australias TAN magazine editor Les Rootsey
explains the course to the 30 to 40 runners, and off they gomale and female,
young and old, feeble and athletic. MacFarland shows that these races are not
exactly Olympic-caliber events, but everyone seems to be having fun, and a couple
of the runners take the race seriously enough to break a sweat.
For those hooked on the many nude runs found in North America, this video
might serve to show their friends and families what they enjoyed on their club-hosted
runs. The race footage is limited to Rootsey explaining the course, and to people
jogging, slogging, and plodding through a 4K or 8K set of loops throughout the
club grounds. Its easy to get a feel for the good-spirited fun the runners
Between his portrayals of the three annual races, MacFarland does a credible
job of showing the amenities of Sun Leisure, located near Logan Valley in southeast
Queensland. This club appears to have a thriving youth population, and MacFarland
proves once again that he knows how to make young and old alike comfortable
in front of his camera.
Club members and visitors play pétanque, miniten, and billiards, and
splash around in the pool. The childrens area is developed, boasting a
large carousel-swing and other play equipment. The club owner also provides
horse-drawn sled, carriage, and stagecoach rides across the club grounds.
Midway through the video, MacFarland moves away from Sun Leisure to explore
running naked in public. MacFarland has long argued that naturists are far too
shy about their desire to be nude, and believes that much of the world is now
ready to accept nudity in many public placesif naturists were but to go
After filming two naked women indoors rolling around suggestively on plastic
exercise balls (supposedly to warm up for the workout to come),
MacFarland takes them to a lonesome country road and films them jogging naked
for short distances. At first, no cars drive by, so they move to a slightly
more populated stretch of road.
Finally, cars pass by the naked women runners with no moreMacFarland
saysthan a wave and a smile. But we see no footage of the drivers
verbal or visual responses, nor do we see anything more than the women waving
at the cars. Its thus not clear what claim about public nudity can really
be supported by the video. Still, MacFarland is one of only a few naturists
taking the issue of responses to public nudity seriously. Hes to be commended
for at least moving the discussion forward, if only incrementally here.
MacFarland has told N that he is working on another video that will
address more fully and in more detail the topic of running nude in public. We
can hope that he allows its viewers richer access to peoples response
to the nudity, and that he develops his discussion and argument further in his
Charles MacFarland, Synetech Video Co.
The videos of Charles MacFarland must be recognized for what they are in order
to be best appreciated. His work is a promotion and celebration of the Nudist
Lifestyle (as vague as that term is), and not, therefore, exclusively crafted
according to the purely plastic values of art. Seen in the context of propaganda,
his products present his vision of what the Nudist Lifestyle is.
Nudism can, at its heart, be paganistic. While this is more to be hinted at
in his other productions, it is not at the forefront of his newest, "Naked Yoga."
There is an almost hypnotically relaxing effect that comes from watching his
videos, and this can be meditative, so in some regards, yoga is his penultimate
subject. His sing songy narration, and meditative delivery, all help to weave
a spell around the viewer, and this is strongly reinforced by the signature
music which floats through it, which is new agey, pseudo-oriental, and VERY
easy on the ear.
The virtues of this video can be found in the employment of very judicious
camera angles, and some highly attractive (yet not commercialized looking) mostly
Czech models, who have as background beach, woods, and appropriate interiors.
There is a certain astuteness to be found as well here. The 18 women to 1 man
ratio of the models betrays heterosexual appeal: the women are so selected as
to run the gamut of tastes - innies and outies, and the whole gamut of hirsuteness
are represented, from the very to the bald, and there is same sex body oiling
for those who prefer female bisexuality (Hey, Drew - over here!). The man selected,
Otto, is a visual Pan: he has an attractively chiseled body, unmutilated by
circumcision. Most of the real yoga work is executed by MacFarland regulars
Monica, Mona, and Betty, although the most difficult yoga is dispatched by Monica.
MacFarland also intersperses some striking chiaroscuro featuring Obelia, whose
body is approachable and non-intimidating for female viewers.
While the theme of the video allows for a practical aspect of social nudism,
the exercises are frequently "in the spirit of" yoga, and some footage degenerates
into people chasing each other at the beach. Its not all discipline in this
one: there is a lot of footage of horsing around, MacFarland can be heard giggling,
shouting at and cajoling his models, and suddenly interviewing them. But, in
the context of a Lifestyle document, such sloppiness might be excused. Mostly,
however, "Naked Yoga" is a soothing experience, just what the Doctor ordered
when you get off work and come home from a stressful day at the office, thus
making this the perfect summer solstice gift. It can be ordered for $40.00 by
calling 1-877- NUDE LIFE (USA).