Mobility documentary is as endearing as it is informative

Reviewed by Lory Martinez

Monteith McCollum’s visually affecting 2010 documentary, A Different Path, is a stunning combination of animated work and cinematography. The film, screened this past weekend at Binghamton University as a part of  the Harpur Cinema series “Forces of Nature,” takes its audiences into the lives of several ordinary people who have come up with some fairly creative ways to communicate their transportation troubles.

As someone who isn’t a fan of the documentary genre, I expected to be bored by preachy commentary on people who are against cars as a primary mode of transportation, but McCollum does a brilliant job of making his point indirectly.

We, as audience members, get snippets of these people’s lives. We watch an endearing elderly couple talk first about how they met before the husband launches into his protest plans to obtain a sidewalk for a busy intersection. We hear an avid bicycle lover/jazz enthusiast/clown play the trumpet as he rides his bike with others down a traffic-ridden street in Toronto. We see a young man kayak across the Hudson River, and much more. These are ordinary people, all struggling to move forward, both literally and figuratively.

In our world of gas stations and chain stores lining miles and miles of highway, we watch these people and sympathize with their missing bike lanes and sidewalks. They are the forgotten few: those who don’t want to drive, or just can’t.

These interviews are supplemented by an interesting animated overlay of vintage comics and photographs along with images of the first plans of highways across the country. These charming images are at once arresting and hypnotic as we fall into McCollum’s world and sympathize with its inhabitants.

And with a soundtrack composed by McCollum himself, this documentary on mobility, or lack thereof, is both entertaining and informative.

This film originally premiered at South by Southwest in 2010 and was nominated for the Pare Lorentz award of the International Documentary Association.

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The “Forces of Nature” series features films that explore “our very human responses to the environment — urban and rural, tamed and unleashed, fictional and documentary.” Screenings are in Lecture Hall 6 on the BU campus. Admission: $4. Information: Call 607-777-4998, or email nwlostow@binghamton.edu.Still remaining in the series:

  • 7:30 p.m. April 5 and 7:  Consuming Spirits (USA, 136 min.) Over 15 years, collaborating with friends and family, Chris Sullivan created a dark and exhilarating exploration of family secrets with pen-and-ink drawings, cut-outs and miniature models. Official selection: Tribeca Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Raindance, 2012. Sullivan will introduce the film on April 5 and will answer questions after the screening.
  • 7:30 p.m. April 12 and 14: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey, 2011, 157 min.) It seems like a cut and dried case of murder in a rural area outside the town of Keskin, but as a police commissar and doctor investigate, they find that things are not quite that simple. Nuri Bilge Ceylan based his film on real events. Winner, Grand Prize, Cannes, 2011.

 

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