Friday Jan 12th, 7:00pm
Explore the mystique of the open road in American culture.
“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” – Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road
The winner of four Best Documentary awards, American Road delves into the literary and historical resonances of the mystique of the road – and especially of veering off the beaten track – in American lore: Westward expansion, Dust Bowl treks, freight train hobos, post-war suburbanization and the Beat critique of it, hitchhikers, the upheavals of the 1960s and early 1970s, and the latest generation of backpackers at home and abroad clutching their Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. The American road – from John Ford movie iconography to rent-a-car sojourns – has inspired poetry, art, music, novels, theater and films.
Our thematic touchstone is Walt Whitman’s egalitarian ideal of the ‘open road.’ Whitman clearly inspired Woody Guthrie’s legendary hard-traveling in the 1930s, the purposeful meanderings of Jack Kerouac through the affluent but edgy early post-war years, and the adventures and misadventures of much of the 1960s generation and their successors. Whitman’s open road, said D. H. Lawrence, was ‘the bravest doctrine man ever proposed to himself.’ Here is a deep exploration of that doctrine in action. American Road ultimately probes the meaning of what it is to be an American, not just a wayfarer.