Dir: Jonas Poher Rasmussen. Denmark. 2012. 75mins
An unlikely, and at times engagingly oddball and droll, road trip through the run down backroads of America is the backdrop for Danish filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen to delve into the meaning of life for those living on the edges of modern American society.
Bob’s journey through the underbelly of America allows a fascinating glimpse into the lives of some of America’s have-nots.
A hybrid documentary, Searching For Bill is a tantalising and impressionistic depiction of America and Americans as seen with a northern European sensibility. There is a faint love for all things Americana while also a sadness about the journeys that those struggling to get by have to take. The film will likely play the festival circuit, though may also intrigue broadcasters.
As its premise, the film weaves in the story of mysterious fraudster and car thief Bill, but his quasi-mythological story is essentially a device for the director of pull together his cast of characters and allow them to tell their stories.
The spine of the film is that journey that burly Bob Maser (bald-headed and with a bushy beard, sans moustache) has to take from his Louisiana trailer park (leaving his wife and baby behind) to go to Detroit, where his stolen car has been found. In the glove compartment he finds a notebook left by Bill (voiced by Michael Gira) which offers clues as to his fraudulent antics. Bob follows the clues, which leads him to the sad stories of others who have been conned by Bill.
On his journey he offers a lift to backpacker Lou, who has no money and who hitchhikes most places. She walks with a limp, and recalls the times when she would ride boxcars – “the last red-blooded American adventure out there,” she says with a smile.
From the overgrown and tattered streets of Detroit through to the off-the-grid desert settlement of Slab City in the Colorado Desert, Bob’s journey through the underbelly of America allows a fascinating glimpse into the lives of some of America’s have-nots. The whole ‘Bill’ plot device works to limited effect – it helps engage some stories, but essentially goes nowhere – but Searching For Bill allows for a sensitive look at the lives of some intriguing people…people who in many cases have lost everything but are still finding ways to carry on.
Production company/contact: Dharmafilm, http://dharmafilm.dk
Producer: David B. Sørensen
Screenplay: Jonas Poher Rasmussen, David B. Sørensen
Cinematography: Nadim Carlsen
Editor: Christian Einshøj
Music: Jonas Munk
With: Bob Maser, Long Tall Lou, Elder Michael Johnson, and (voice) Michael Gira