Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Hitchhiking Movie: A Review

A few weeks back, I was given the opportunity to get a screener of the documentary The Hitchhiking Movie, and naturally, I jumped at the chance, both because I am a great fan of documentary film and because it was the first movie screener I've ever been offered.

The premise is that Ryan Jeanes and filmmaker Phillip Hullquist challenged themselves by trying to hitchhike from New York to Los Angeles over the first week of July 2007 (the added pressure was that they had to arrive in Los Angeles by a certain time as there was a plane ticket waiting to take them home). The other condition was they couldn't really spend money, so they had to truly depend on the kindness of strangers. The question is: can they make it? Watch the trailer to get a little bit of the flavor of this project.

Now the expectation that is likely in place is that I will discuss some of the kooky characters they meet along the way, but in reality, most of the people they meet along the way are ordinary people, and in a way, that makes the whole experience a little more interesting because those people are much easier to relate to. There were characters to be sure, but most of the people who ended up picking them up were people like you and me, dealing with their own problems, and in the end, I think it ended up being a much better cross section of the kinds of people who pick up hitch hikers. We meet almost all of the people who helped them make this journey, but there are a few who really stood out and they became the focus of the project, especially those who took the pair quite a few miles down the road.

What really surprised me, and maybe the fact that a documentary was being filmed influenced this, but there were people who picked them up who eventually let them do some of the driving. Perhaps this is more common than I, someone who has never hitchhiked, would expect. Either that, or there is still some trust on America's highways and byways. (The fact that this trip happened in the general vicinity of the Fourth of July probably didn't hurt either.)

The Hitchhiking Movie is the essence of independent documentary film making. Watching the credits, I noted that aside from Ryan and Philip, only two other people were involved in editing the film or adding additional flair, so it is indeed a very personal vision of the two people involved in the journey. This movie shows an entertaining slice of America, and it is fun watching the adventure, and the two filmmakers take their hardships with humor and grace, even when they have brushes with the law.

I have to note that there was one thing that took me out of the experience at times, and it is a small thing I admit, but it is still something I have to note. You see, there are more than a few occasions where there are spelling errors in the transcription of what is being said. Again, I said it wasn't a major thing, but it was something that happened enough that it was noticeable. But I am a stickler for things like that sometimes (though I know I have made enough errors like that over the years, so I still live in a little bit of a glass house).

The two men behind this film are currently working on a project that involves their trip down the entirety of the Mississippi River from its source all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, which seems like it should be some interesting viewing as well, and I look forward to seeing it when it is completed.

The Hitchhiking Movie opens at the Secret City Film Festival in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on October 9th and it is available for purchase from their website.