Explores the mystique of the road in American culture.
Directors: Kurt Jacobsen, Warren Leming
Writers: Kurt Jacobsen, Warren Leming
Producers: Kurt Jacobsen, Warren Leming
Key cast: Edward Asner, Sean Stone, Chick Richards, Guy Van Swearingen
Director: Kurt Jacobsen and Warren Leming
Kurt Jacobsen, co‐producer and co‐writer, is author or editor of nine books, including 'Chasing Progress in the Irish Republic,' and has written about cinema for the Chicago Reader, London Guardian, New Politics and many other publications. He has worked on half a dozen documentaries, including the forthcoming ‘Legend of Charlotte Bach’ from Malachite Productions in the UK.
Warren Leming, co‐producer and co‐writer, is a Second City‐trained actor, a founder of the band Wilderness Road (Columbia and Warner Brothers), a theater director, author, and creator, with Denis Mueller, of seven earlier documentaries. He is producer of the forthcoming documentary "Nelson Algren: The End is nothing, the Road is all" from Bulletproof Film.
Winner of several Best Documentary awards, this feature documentary explores the artistic, musical and literary resonances of the myth of the road – and especially of going off the beaten track ‐ in American lore: Westward expansion, the Dust Bowl era, hobos, post‐war suburbanization and the Beat critique of it, hitchhiking, the upheavals of the 1960s and early 1970s, and the current generation of backpackers clutching their Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. 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. There is a coda on travel today. 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 is a physical thing but it also is a metaphor for personal and national transformation. This film ultimately examines what it means to be an American, not just a wayfarer. Interviewees include poet Anne Waldman, legendary musician Tom Paley, award-winning writer Achy Obejas, cultural critic Russell Jacoby, novelist John Nichols and many other savvy travelers.