Riding The Rails

  • 1997
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

Illuminating and utterly enthralling, Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell's documentary about Depression-era boxcar riders offers an invaluable look at the real-life individuals whose image has become an indelible part of 20th century American folklore. Inspired by accounts of teenagers who illegally criss-crossed the country aboard freight trains, Uys wrote over...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Illuminating and utterly enthralling, Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell's documentary about Depression-era boxcar riders offers an invaluable look at the real-life individuals whose image has become an indelible part of 20th century American folklore. Inspired by accounts of

teenagers who illegally criss-crossed the country aboard freight trains, Uys wrote over 40 letters to the editors of such publications as Modern Maturity, searching for men and women who left their homes and hit the tracks during the 1930s. After receiving over 3,000 responses, Uys, Lovell

and crew hit the road themselves and amassed a priceless collection of interviews with various adolescent boxcar Berties and Berthas who left their homes in search of America. Some left to relieve their impoverished, Depression-struck families; others left to escape abusive home lives; many were

simply looking for freedom and adventure. More often than not they found it, along with extremely hazardous living conditions (tales of life in the makeshift hobo camps know as "jungles" are just one of this film's many highlights), soul-crushing loneliness and a terrible vision of a country on

the brink of collapse that would change their lives forever. Further enriched by the timeless music of Jimmy Rodgers and Woody Guthrie, and a wealth of haunting images -- most culled from newsreel footage and archival stills, in which forgotten faces peer out of the past with startling

contemporaneity -- Uys and Lovell's film succeeds as both a powerful historical document and as terrific entertainment.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Illuminating and utterly enthralling, Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell's documentary about Depression-era boxcar riders offers an invaluable look at the real-life individuals whose image has become an indelible part of 20th century American folklore. Inspired b… (more)

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