(Gerry Troyna • BBC4 • 2011)
An intriguing feature-length piece from writer, journalist, and former nomad Richard Grant, based in part on his book ‘American Nomads’ (UK: ‘Ghost Riders’)i. The film follows Grant as he trawls the truck stops, highways, deserts, railroads, rodeos, tent ministries, and other haunts of the American South-west, seeking the eponymous archetypes of the road. A demographic made up of perpetual hitch-hikers, hoboes, crazies, gutter punks, motorhome retirees and others from the margins, escaping their pasts, looking for adventure, work, spiritual rewards, or just a place they want to call home.
Eight years in the making, ‘American Nomads’ is a marvellous document of a 6000-mile sociological journey, without judgement or glamorisation, and is overall empathic, inspiring and entertaining. From mobile home groups overwintering in the desert to the Temporary Autonomous Zone encampment at Slab City, the abused and abandoned to elderly drifters, Grant meets and interviews an array of curious, truly free, characters. The most obvious difference between those depicted here and their equivalents in the UK and elsewhere is that it is possible for them to be fully nomadic, travelling vast distances for free by jumping trains and hitching. Originally commissioned for BBC4, the film’s score is by Ross Godfrey (Morcheeba).