The Journey of One American School Bus
The transformation of an old American school bus into a brightly-colored public bus in Guatemala speaks volumes about our globalized world.
Directed by Mark Kendall
Produced by Mark Kendall, Rafael González
Editor: Mark Kendall
Co-Editor: Shannon Kennedy
Cinematographer: Mark Kendall
Orignal Music: T. Griffin
Consulting Producer: Bernardo Ruiz
Executive Producer: Esther Robinson
A Follow Your Nose Films production
Note: There are two versions of this program on the same DVD: 72-minutes and 52-minutes.
"An upbeat story of resilience, regeneration and artistic imagination." Stephen Holden, New York Times
Every day dozens of decommissioned school buses leave the United States on a southward migration that carries them to Guatemala, where they are repaired, repainted, and resurrected as the brightly-colored camionetas that bring the vast majority of Guatemalans to work each day. Since 2006, nearly 1,000 camioneta drivers and fare-collectors have been murdered for either refusing or being unable to pay the extortion money demanded by local Guatemalan gangs.
La Camioneta follows one such bus on its transformative journey: a journey between North and South, between life and death, and through an unfolding collection of moments, people, and places that serve to quietly remind us of the interconnected worlds in which we live.
Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2013
Copyright Date: 2012
DVD ISBN: 1-93777-284-5
"An amazing film that manages to capture the complexity, nuance, and emotion behind the ties that bind the United States to Guatemala, and many places like it. Kendall shows not only the fascinating life cycle of a former U.S. school bus but the many ways it intersects with people's daily lives in the violent context of Guatemala. With compelling visuals, an empathic and informative story line, and an important message, this is a film not to be missed. It is one of those rare films that will be valuable for classroom use, but equally compelling as documentary info-tainment. Highly recommended."
Edward Fischer, Director of Center for Latin American Studies, Professor of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University, Author, Cultural Logics and Global Economics
"La Camioneta is the true origin story of a bus and the men convert it from yellow school bus States to a distinctly Guatemalan work of art. Kendall looks for the good in the life of these people, certainly capturing their struggles and problems, but above all, finding an uplifting story from a place that needs more of such stories. This positive story of hope, creativity, and perseverance in one of Guatemala City's most dangerous neighborhoods offers a powerful positive view of a country that is still raw from decades of political and social violence."
Walter E. Little, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Director of the Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, SUNY at Albany
"Using a bus as a vehicle to show the lives of Guatemalans, La Camioneta provides unique insights into the economic realities that average Guatemalans face in making ends meet in a situation of increasing conflict and violence. The movie leaves the viewer with a greater awareness of the daily struggles facing Guatemalans."
Paul Winters, Professor of Economics, American University
"With keen sensitivity to the details of everyday life, La Camioneta follows the travels and transformation of an aging yellow school bus...Along the way the bus is presented as a powerful site for the expression of hopes and fears of the men who own and operate the vehicle. At heart, the film is a rich reflection on the quiet hopes and efforts of a small group of Guatemalans struggling to support their families in the context of the larger flow of people and goods, as well as the violence that can accompany these. People both familiar with Guatemala or knowing little of the country will be moved by this film."
Carol Hendrickson, Professor of Anthropology, Marlboro College, Author, Weaving Identities: Construction of Dress and Self in a Highland Guatemala Town
"La Camioneta is one of those rare films that packs its punch so modestly that viewers don't know what hit them until the credits roll. With zero narration, the film's protagonists speak for themselves, and the audience slowly but inexorably becomes entirely engrossed in the journey of one American school bus to Guatemala, a country still reeling from the latent effects of a thirty-year civil war. In a documentary film industry replete with self-congratulation, La Camioneta's quiet but profound message rings truer than those of most other documentaries out there."
Jean-Marie Simon, Photojournalist, Author of Guatemala: Eternal Spring, External Tyranny
"Quietly moving...is as modest and farsighted as its cast of Guatemalans who make a living resurrecting discarded American school buses...La Camioneta is not a graphic exposé of the horrors born of desperate poverty. It is an upbeat story of resilience, regeneration and artistic imagination. For all the perils they face, the Guatemalan drivers, dealers and mechanics are able to make a living from American refuse and in the process turn the buses into mobile works of folk art."
Stephen Holden, The New York Times
"The film wrings an almost bizarre amount of political, humanistic and spiritual substance out of this limited frame. Kendall's eye for untold stories, as well as his instinct for catching evocatively framed images on the fly, mark him as a name to watch."
Andrew Barker, Variety
"La Camioneta is a poetic, even dreamy, film that ultimately conveys the mystical sense of a transmigrated (mechanical) soul. This wildly colorful vehicle seems totally at home, a point the filmmaker reinforces with a flashback to the same bus, regulation yellow and black, being driven through an empty, sterile suburb."
J. Hoberman, ARTINFO
"A film that's rich in detail and character observation...An intimate and vivid report on a surprising connection between North and Central America...The concise and well-constructed film looks destined to continue a successful fest-circuit journey, and would be a fine fit for small-screen venues that welcome adventurous nonfiction fare...As much as it is an alarmed look at dark doings, the film is also a celebration of ingenuity."
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter
"Remarkable...A brilliant microhistory of our globalized world...It distills the poetics of an epic journey into a powerful miniature: its story of a handful of Guatemalan men who purchase, transport, refurbish, and recycle a decommissioned [Pennsylvania] school bus is both a graceful, ground-level portrait of Guatemala's working class and a cri de coeur from the shadows of affluence."
Matt Brennan, Thompson On Hollywood
"Documentarian Mark Kendall presents the journey of the camioneta with incredible grace and elegance, exposing what is remarkable in the mundane and the tediousness in everyday life...An experience that is deeply poetic."
Craig Kennedy and Jackson Truax, Living in Cinema
"Mark Kendall has come up with a very simple, delicate, and surprisingly gripping way of shedding light onto a very complex inter-connected economy...We learn about the structures and the dynamics that support and drive the American school bus taken out of a solely American context as we ride along for its many road trips, where it can experience bribery requests, robberies, and explosions, but also becomes a temple for the drivers' prayers, and even a float in a religious parade, filled with excited children and sporting carnival adornments."
Diego Costa, Slant Magazine
"A work of sociological significance as well as a surprisingly personal account of a community that has ensured its survival by salvaging these buses...La Camioneta is at once an insightful documentary and a poignant allegory. A novel and topical story draws viewers in; the illumination of very honest, human issues residing within will keep them in their seats. Even if it's just for a few stops, we will all find ourselves passengers on the same bus eventually."
Emma Bernstein, Indiewire
"Documentary filmmakers can make any number of mistakes with their first features. Casting too wide a net is one of the most common. La Camioneta avoids that pothole, beautifully...Elegant and f
2 versions on same DVD: 72 minutes and 52 minutes. Subtitles: English or Spanish. With closed captioning for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
The film's website
The producer's website
Awards and Festivals
David L. Wolper Award, International Documentary Association
Critics' Pick, New York Times
Indiewire's List of "Top Docs of 2013"
CINE Golden Eagle Award
Best Hispanic Film, Nashville Film Festival
Best Documentary, CineSol Film Festival
Special Jury Mention for Best Documentary, Nashville Film Festival
Special Jury Mention for Best Documentary, New England Festival of Ibero-American Cinema
SXSW Film Festival
Los Angeles Film Festival
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Starz Denver Film Festival
Cleveland International Film Festival
Philadelphia Film Festival
Heartland Film Festival
Festival Int'l de Cine en Guadalajara (CUCSH)
Portland International Film Festival
Santiago Festival Internacional de Cine (SANFIC)
Minneapolis / St. Paul International Film Festival
It's All True International Documentary Film Festival, Sao Paulo, BRAZIL
RiverRun International Film Festival
AFI Latin American Film Festival
Cinequest Film Festival
Arizona International Film Festival
San Diego Latino Film Festival
Seattle Latino Film Festival
Vancouver Latin American Film Festival
Cine+Mas San Francisco Latino Film Festival
Boston Latino International Film Festival
Festival ICARO, Guatemala
Salem Film Fest
Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
Central America/The Caribbean
Latin American Studies
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luid...Well worth seeing."
Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune