Riding the Rails

on April 13, 1998 by Dale Winogura
   Hobo life during the Depression is at once romanticized and deglamorized in a fine, moving documentary that fluidly combines tough nostalgia with understated social consciousness. The obviously devoted filmmakers, Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell, expertly thread together telling interviews with survivors, newsreel footage, archival stills and folks songs into a loving cinematic tapestry.
   The hardship and loneliness of living on trains among scores of fellow bums is strongly counterpointed by the lust for adventure and escape that these people express so fondly. The usage of a clip from William Wellman's good, little-seen 1933 drama, "Wild Boys of the Road," effectively illustrates how the movies can inspire young people's life decisions. Political causes are presented as just one aspect, because the film's focus is on humanity struggling to survive at a time when that was all there was to live for. It's a rare experience and treasure, beautifully shot in 16mm.    Directed, written and produced by Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell. An Artistic License release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 72 min.
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