Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Jack Kerouac For The Craigslist Generation

Craigslist Joe
Directed by Joe Garner
CLJ Films
Produced by Zach Galfinakas
Four Scoops of Bosco

Review by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

The premise of a new documentary film is a fascinating one.

What if you were to start out traveling with just the clothes on your back, a backpack,  a laptop, a tooth brush and a cell phone. In the middle of winter. 

How far could you get in thirty days?

That's exactly what Joe Garner did in the Winter of 2008.  His one rule...He could only use the online Flea Market Craigslist as a tool for navigating his way.

Garner needed a cameraman to document all of this.  Which he found on Craigslist. Of course.

Garner found out exactly what I found out traveling around the United States by Train.  You meet interesting, generous and diverse people from all walks of life with incredible stories to tell.  The human spirit is greater than ever.

This is an extremely compelling story with all the elements of great drama.  Each day of the journey, you are wondering how is he going to get up the road, how is he going to eat, where is he going to stay?

Then there are the stories of the people he meets and travels with. 

This film was made during the middle of this Country's recession.  The resiliance and human spirit of the people Joe meets traveling across the country is enlightening and inspiring and will move you to tears sometimes.

My favorite stories include the American-Iraqi family Joe meets in Portland, OR and shares dinner with.  The story on how this family, even though American Citizens, and what they have had to face in the way of discrimination and profiling since 9/11 will break your hearts.

There is also the Domamatrix Joe meets and sleeps over with in Chicago. Which after an interesting discussion on what she does prompts the comment "Tonight I sleep with an Athletic supporter".

Or the aging actress in New York struggling with Dementia that Joe helps in New York City.

And in the end Joe meets the creator of Craigslist, Craig Newmark, in San Francisco who gives a great insight on why he started the Online Community.

My only question is what would have happened if there was no cameraman?  How far would have Joe got?  How much access would he have?

The one thing I have found by shooting documentaries over the years is that the camera and microphone opens the door to a lot of access.  The minute you announce you are filming a documentary your chances of having access to people goes up exponentially. So I wonder how many nights on the streets would he have actually spent if he had not told people he was documenting this for a film.

Also, the places where he had the most trouble getting a place to sleep...New York City and San Francisco? C'mon.  If you can't find a place to crash in those two cities...then you have no chance.  I think those are done for unnecessary dramatic effect. Or when the guy Joe is traveling with is having problems starting his VW bus and they require a push. Knowing that if the car starts that you can't stop...Why was the cameraman standing outside the vehicle to shoot this knowing that information.  That had to be staged.

But the film overall is done quite well with a surprisingly good home-made music score (by Garner's brother David) and with a compelling story should be seen.

It might even inspire an adventure of your own.

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