Kurt Jacobsen & Warren Leming: American Road

As one who does not have English as native language this film demands attention and concentration. You have to get used to the constant bombardment of words, archive photos and films, interviews but if you succeed to do so, it really pays off. This rich film gives you so much American cultural history that you feel deeply informed – and entertained. Because it is not – as many films full of words – a boring film, it has a light tone led by co-producer Warren Leming’s wonderful, relaxed voice-off commentary that is miles away from an usual authoritarian television speak.

The starting point of the film is this poem by Walt Whitman:  Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road. Healthy, free, the world before me. The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose. (Song of the Open Road).

From this the film travels through literature and music and politics and philosophy having Mark Twain, Woody Guthrie (close-ups on his guitar text label: this machine kills fascists!) and Jack Kerouac of course, with his iconic inspiration Neil Cassady, as strong characters of the story that again and again refers back to Whitman. Not to forget Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan. It’s social history, it takes us to the horrible images from the Vietnam war and some veterans appear in the film. A gallery of people are interviewed, asked

to remember and analyse how and why. Sometimes this stops the flow of the story as ”experts” are not equally interesting to listen to. Anyway, the film as such is a work that you can only admire for its richness and ability to put the many Americana elements that we know about into a personal, intelligent perspective.

Here follows an edited quote from the fine site of the film:

The American road ‐ from the frontier iconography of John Ford’s films through rent‐a‐car cross country itineraries of the US – has inspired poetry, art, folk music, novelists and playwrights. In Hollywood the road
film is a major genre. The thematic touchstone is the egalitarian ideal of the “open road” first expressed by 
poet Walt Whitman. Whitman clearly inspired Woody Guthrie through the hard traveling times of the 1930s, 
the purposeful meanderings of Jack Kerouac and his scruffy associates through the early post‐war years, 
and the adventures and misadventures of much of the 1960s generation and its successors. Whitman’s 
open road, said D. H. Lawrence, was “the bravest doctrine man ever proposed to himself.’ American Road 
is an exploration of that doctrine in action. The road also is a metaphor for personal and national 
transformation. The documentary ultimately explores what it means to be an American, not just 
a wayfarer…

USA, 1h.45 mins (in two parts), 2013

If you wish to see the fim there is contact info on the site

http://www.americanroad.jigsy.com

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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