On The Road: 10 films about being on the move

04. July 2018

Whether you're on a long journey, thumbing a lift in the middle of nowhere or embarking on a road trip, there are things that can only ever happen or be seen while travelling around. But not all on-the-road stories are pleasant - or even voluntary. Outsider Star has no real place to call home in AMERICAN HONEY, BECOMING WHO I WAS sees Tibetan youngster Angdu set out on a long trek, and 'Madame B, histoire d’une Nord-Coréenne' follows a North Korean woman on a dangerous crossing. That the goal is often not the journey's end, but the journey itself sounds like a cliché, yet the following films reinforce the idea that the greatest challenges and the most beautiful surprises come while on the move.

AMERICAN HONEY (USA/UK, 2016)


In a supermarket parking lot in Oklahoma, Star (18) and her two siblings rummage through bins in search of food. Star is taken by surprise, when a wild bunch of teenagers in a noisy van suddenly appears out of nowhere. One of them is Jake, who immediately starts flirting with the dreadlocked young woman. The next day, Star joins the travelling magazine sales runaways on a journey across the Midwest in a van blasting with music and a high-spirited vibe. However, Krystal, the caustic ringleader, remains unimpressed by Star and Jake’s budding romance. With its fantastic soundtrack, this deeply atmospheric ‘white trash’ road movie from British director Andrea Arnold continually allows the hopelessness of youth to emerge from behind a glossy façade.

Available: DVD | Bluray

 

AVANT LA FIN DE L’ÉTÉ (Switzerland/France, 2017)


After five years of studying in Paris, Arash is fed up with France. Haunted by feelings of unhappiness and despair, the sensitive Iranian student firmly believes that the French are a breed of their own. His friends Hossein and Ashkan persuade him to join them on one last trip, hoping to change his mind. The dissimilar trio hits the road, heading to the sun-kissed South of France with a jam-packed car. Sleeping on campsites, drinking beer at street festivals and frolicking in the fresh sea air they meet the two musicians Charlotte and Michèle and Arash is left to decide whether he really wants to return to Iran after all… AVANT LA FIN DE L'ÉTÉ presents itself as a documentary that continually seeks to play with the boundaries of fiction. In this portrayal of friendship, filmmaker Maryam Goormaghtigh meets the three sensitive and loving protagonists with just as much sensitivity – leaving room for comic relief as well as the more serious nature of their potential forlornness in a foreign culture.

Available: DVD

 

AWAY WE GO (USA, 2009)


Burt and Verona are expecting a baby and only wish to find the perfect home for it. The two travel through America in search of a template for their ideal abode. But there is a sobering ending to their odyssey. A charming comedy about the worries of soon-to-be parents.

Available: DVD

 

BECOMING WHO I WAS (South Korea, 2016)

 
Angdu is far from being a regular boy; he is a ‘Rinpoche’, the reincarnation of an important Buddhist master. Since the age of six he has been revered as a living god in his village in the mountains of India. His godfather, Urgain, a monk and the village’s doctor, has spent years lovingly preparing Angdu hoping that he may one day pass on his wisdom. In order to return to his predecessor’s monastery in Tibet, Angdu must first await the arrival of emissaries. As the years pass without sign, his reputation in the village slowly declines. Urgain’s faith in Angdu remains unshakable, however, and he decides to set off on the long and difficult journey to the “Roof of the World”. Over a period of eight years we accompany this growing spiritual master, learning of his hopes and dreams. With his heart-warming narrative style and the spectacular imagery of northern India’s mountain landscape, this impressive documentary is a truly extraordinary visual experience.

 

LA DELGADA LINEA AMARILLA / THE THIN YELLOW LINE (Mexico, 2015)


Five men who were dealt a dud hand by life have been given the task of re-marking the central lines on a 217 km highway stretch in the federal state of San Luis Potosi. Armed with an old truck, a dog and a few yellow paint pots, the men set to work in the sweltering heat. Neither of them could have guessed that this apparently tedious task will change the lives of the dissimilar comrades forever. Repressed pasts, cruel acts of fate and new glimmers of hope are awaiting along the roadside… A road movie in the truest sense of the term, this unpretentiously philosophical, heart-warming film is guaranteed not to leave anybody out in the cold. Produced by Guillermo del Toro, Celso R. García’s award-winning debut work received fifteen nominations at this year’s Mexican ‘Ariel’ film awards.

Available: DVD [international]

 

LA JAULA DE ORO (Mexico/Spain, 2013)


“Everything is better in the north”. Juan has decided to leave his impoverished home in Guatemala City and set off on the difficult journey to California with Sara and Samuel, two chance acquaintances. Sara not only cuts off her hair for the trip, but also bandages her youthful breasts and changes her name to Osvaldo. While travelling, the teenagers meet the Indio Chauk, who doesn't speak Spanish. While Sara takes care of the forlorn boy, Juan sees the paperless child as a new threat to their travel plans, but a ride on the perilous “death train” through Mexico soon has the refugees bonding – until their paths suddenly and unexpectedly separate. Director Diego Quemada-Díez’s well-researched debut follows the infamous Central American migratory path with a group of young amateur actors, who were promptly and rightly awarded the A Certain Talent Prize after the world-premiere screening in Cannes.

Available: DVD

 

LA NOVIA DEL DESIERTO / THE DESERT BRIDE (Argentina/Chile, 2017)


Her new and bright red sneakers should help give Teresa better grip in the stony desert. It has been a long time since she last received a heartfelt present – and even longer since somebody paid her a genuine compliment. Putting the needs of another family before her own, Teresa has spent the past thirty years working as a housekeeper in Buenos Aires. When the family can no longer afford to keep her, they find her a job with friends instead – 700 miles away in San Juan. Teresa’s long journey through the Argentine desert takes a disastrous turn, however, when she loses her luggage. The only person who can help her find her belongings, her inner peace and perhaps even more, is the charming yet mysterious travelling salesman Gringo.
With gentle humour, the two directors Cecilia Atán and Valeria Pivato offer us a finely crafted insight into the world of a long-suffering woman who rediscovers her zest for life in the desert of Argentina.

 

MADAME B, HISTOIRE D’UNE NORD-CORÉENNE (France/South Korea, 2016)

 
In order to increase her income and take better care of her family, Madame B sets off on the arduous journey from North Korea to China – where her smugglers sell her to a Chinese farmer. Keen to survive, Madame B not only adjusts to life with her new husband and family, she also learns to love them. While in China, she sets up her own smuggling ring to help North Korean families flee to South Korea. Torn between her simple but secure life in China and the desire to see her sons again, Madame B decides to set off on a second adventurous journey. Upon arrival in South Korea, she is, however, left bitterly disappointed. Director Jero Yun accompanied Madame B over the course of several years and fashions a fascinating portrait of a woman who is as courageous as she is strong.

 

OUT (Czech Republic/Tschechien/Hungary, 2017)

 
When Ágoston, a Hungarian Slovak working in a nuclear power station, is suddenly laid off, he decides to travel north to a Baltic seaport in quest of work. This is just the beginning of an odyssey through the coarse and absurd world of the post-communist East, in which Ágoston must face any number of prejudices against foreigners, a round of naked beer, an encounter with an obtrusive animal rights activist, a stuffed earless bunny and an impulsive Russian with a disastrously operated “superwoman” of a wife. But all Ágoston was actuallly looking for was to catch a fish… Director Gyorgy Kristof ‘s debut feature is a quiet yet vivid road movie full of spectacular landscape photography and outlandish encounters.

 

POP AYE (Singapore, 2017)

 
Not long ago one of Bangkok’s most sought-after architects, Thana’s time now seems to be over: his once celebrated masterpiece is about to be torn down, at work he is being replaced by a young gun and his wife no longer shows any interest in him. While walking down the street one day he suddenly catches sight of his childhood ‘pet’, the elephant Pop Aye and Thana comes up with a plan. He buys the elephant and decides to return to the village where he was born – far away from the stress and competitive pressure of the big city. On his adventurous journey along a country road, the man and his giant companion are surprised by a number of odd encounters, including a clairvoyant tramp, two overly bureaucratic police officers and a lady boy with karaoke ambitions. Kirsten Tan’s unique road trip tells of everlasting friendship, personal dreams and the intransigent effort needed to get back to one’s roots and find peace. With its beautifully serene narrative style, mildly melancholic undertone and subtle situational comedy, Tan has managed to create a film that becomes emblazoned on the mind.


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