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Zurück bleiben bitte!, or Public Transportation Captured in 8 Minutes

Cucalorus Film Festival started today. Don’t know what that is? Yeah, I didn’t either until Nathan Maulorico of Unknown Films* announced that his film—by far my favorite indie film**—is going to be screened there. I’ll tell you a little about Cucalous, but I can’t wait to tell you about This… is the Orange Line.

Cucalorus is a non-competitive film festival held in Wilmington, North Carolina. I sort of like their philosophy: “competition sucks. It often takes hundreds of people to make a film, so why does one guy get the little statue?” Cucalorus isn’t about who a mysterious academy determines is the best it’s about the film as art.

This… is the Orange Line is art. It is “an experimental documentary film about the shapes and movement of the Chicago Orange Line L Train from day to night.” It is, for me about the emotions evoked by public transportation.

I grew up in Kansas City, Neosho, and Springfield. Three towns with nothing that resembles the public transportation even Giessen, a town the size of Joplin that we lived in for two years in Germany. But I love public transportation, and trains are the best (and I’ve written about that before).

This… is the Orange Line captures everything I love about riding on trains. Each station has its own personality. Riding trains gives you a view of your city that isn’t normally seen. You see the back of buildings, back yards, graffiti on those buildings, an overhead view of streets you walk on every day. You see all sorts of people on the train doing all sorts of things. You hear some really great musicians—buskers—in the stations or even on the trains.

Not only does Nathan’s artistic eye capture those images well, but the music he chose incorporates the emotions that using public transportation creates in me. The score is Edward Elgar’s “Cello Concerto in E Minor.” It captures the pace of the trains so well and so perfectly supports the melancholy joy that I feel when I’m traveling***. You’re surrounded by people, but you don’t interact with them; people sleep (or pretend to) to avoid interaction, and they’re really good at finding a spot to stare at. You’re moving stress-free–no “I hope I can find a parking place” or “What? An accident? My boss is going to be pissed that I’m late!”–but not on your own schedule. You spend most of your time underground (at least in Berlin and many other big cities), but the stations are usually painted in bright colors to hide the sewer-like feel of pipe-shaped hallways that lead you to your train or the surface. You see ads for fancy language courses or DeBeers jewelry or West End musicals, but those ads will be—sooner or later—covered by a different kind of art, street art.

Paired with the images Nathan selected of the L, this short film feels like a verbalization of all that I love and feel about riding trains.


Support Nathan, Unknown Films, and indie films in general:

This… is the Orange Line trailer on Facebook :: This… is the Orange Line on IndieGoGo


* A super cool dude with a lovely wife, who I met through the Springfield Bloggers Association last year.

** I haven’t seen many indie films, but I have a feeling that this one will top the list for a very very long time.

*** And I’m not the only one who thinks that this is a perfect pairing of music and film: The Elgar Birthplace Museum will archive This… is the Orange Line because it is”a beautiful and moving use of Elgar’s music.” Read more about this honor here.

2 thoughts on “Zurück bleiben bitte!, or Public Transportation Captured in 8 Minutes

  1. Beverly Oakes

    02 Apr on 2011 at 15:29

    Have ridden the Orange Line in Chicago, and experienced that detached feeling, and fascination with the geometry of movement; of being in the city, right next to work, life, and play, – and yet, like watching from outside a fishbowl. So many unwritten rules of eye contact, levels of conversation, permission to speak. Wish your friend the best of luck with his film!

  2. Daniel Hargett

    12 Nov on 2010 at 9:10

    This does sound really cool. I am going to see this one!