HBO DOCUMENTARY SERIES ANARCHISTS with flaming The beachside bonfire begins. Shirtless children shrieked with delight as they tore pages from books and threw them into the fire. A hyped middle-aged man with a textbook yells at the camera “Fuck you!” His young son watches intently. “Bitch!” another kid yelled, throwing the crumpled paper into the fire. It’s a wild, disgusting scene. Who are these people?
We learn that the head of the textbook sabotage is Nathan Freeman, an avid software designer whose family recently relocated from Central America Suburbs to Acapulco, Mexico, to help host a new conference called Anachapulco. Together with his wide-eyed wife Lisa, Freeman hopes to build a community dedicated to a liberal ideology known as anarcho-capitalism. A bonfire straight out of Fahrenheit 451 ? Of course, typical community building activities. And, as it turns out, it happened at a relatively peaceful time among this slutty, bickering tax-hating slutty subgroup. Burning books is just the prelude to a more serious mess.
When Todd Schramke started filming in Acapulco in 2015, he thought he was cobbling together an exploration of a quirky counterculture that could serve as Group of digital short film work. Instead, he rolled the camera nonstop for six years, witnessing the group’s rapid expansion and staggering division. He follows a colorful and often belligerent cast of characters, including the Freeman family, conspiracy theorist Anna Chapulco founder Jeff Berwick, and a pair named John Galton and Lily Fawkes. A charismatic runaway couple in the name of Rest as they try to live out their ideological convictions – bring down the government, bring down the free market – in their cobbled expat cadre in Mexico.
Because of their dreams of stateless existence, the group enthusiastically promoted the use of cryptocurrencies and found itself well-funded after the Bitcoin price surge in 2017. (Also, so no one yelled at me: if you ask real anarchists, they’ll tell you that anarcho-capitalism has nothing to do with traditional anarchism – it’s anti-capitalist and left-leaning – making The title of this documentary series is a misnomer. “The Hedonistic Liberal” might be more accurate, but oh well!) Along the way, wealth comes and goes, and some of Schramke’s principled characters end ED dead, Sometimes violent.
WIRED talks with the director about the filmmaking process, anarchist web forums, and how to roll through unexpected plot twists in real life.
This conversation contains spoilers and has been edited for clarity and length.
Connection: I want to hear
The Origin Story of Anarchists. What drew you to Anara Chapulco in the first place?
Todd Schramke: As a young punk rock musician, I encountered the concept of anarchy in my own development. Some bands associated with that world were interested in more classical anarchism, which actually emerged from the labor rights movement of the 19th century – which has little to do with what happened to Anna Chapulco. This desensitized me to the concept of anarchism and anarchism, and when I got to voting age, I started to explore some of these ideas.