In American terms, the concept of freedom is a unique proposition. In the last couple of months we’ve seen the ugliness of it, as many individuals have staged protests demanding that the country reopen in the midst of a global pandemic to be able to eat at Cracker Barrel or something. Andrew J. Morgan and Nick Nummerdor’s Sleeze Lake: Vanlife at Its Lowest and Best thankfully offers a more picturesque version of individualism in America.
Sleeze Lake discusses a van commune spontaneously developed by a group of blue-collar outcasts, who were in search of a world away from the general rat race. What developed was a convention of roughly 20,000 vanners, resulting in a party that was part-Woodstock, part-Burning Man in Vans. The film depicts an ode to the idealistic version of a hippie America. The actual Sleeze Lake is defined as a place where you can be whomever you wish to be. It seems to be a rad time, the kind you could stereotypically set to B-sides by The Seeds and Cream.
The biggest issue that Sleeze Lake the film has is that Morgan and Nummerdor never really manage to make the subject matter pop. Sleeze Lake as a topic feels like it should be more interesting than is depicted, but when I really think about it, I’m not entirely certain there’s all that much that seems to be too unique about vanning a concept. The ideal values of the subject seem to be in line with many counter-culture movements. The only thing that seems different about this one is that it takes place in a van. The documentary unfortunately feels just as uninteresting. The formal qualities are simply far too much in line with the general tendency of some documentaries to make Sleeze Lake really stand out.