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Route One/USA - Pt. 1
Directed by Robert Kramer
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Newly restored and digitized with the support of the Centre National du Cinema (CNC).

Icarus Films On Demand: Navigate to watch Part Two. Return to Series.

“A thin stretch of asphalt cutting through all the old dreams of a nation.”
–Robert Kramer

In 1988, after years living abroad, renegade filmmaker Robert Kramer returns. “Back,” he emphasizes. Not “home.” To try to understand the country as it is, he decides to travel the entire length of Route 1, from the Canadian border to Key West, filming all the way. His companion on the trip is Doc—ostensibly Kramer’s friend, a brooding physician back after a harrowing decade working in Africa. But in fact, he’s a fictional character played by actor Paul McIsaac, a compassionate man who readily engages those he meets, from business owners, to factory workers and to army recruits.

For a road movie, ROUTE ONE/USA features few shots of the open road itself. Instead, we are treated to a series of stops along the way—an Indian reserve in Maine, Walden Pond, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, a Georgia diner, Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter, and evangelical churches that preach the “truth” about the anti-apartheid movement and the dangers of Disney. There are plenty of characters along the way too, and appearances by televangelist Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson, as they campaign for president.

It’s not just the people who make the film though. Kramer has an extraordinary eye for people, patterns, and industrial processes (you’ll never look at Monopoly or tinned sardines the same way again), and his visuals shine through in this beautifully restored edition.

Though shot decades ago, ROUTE ONE/USA feels remarkably contemporary in its portrayal of many of the racial, social, and economic challenges America continues to face.

“Endlessly fascinating. An extraordinary, fluidly shaped mosaic of the fragmented pockets of American life that together compose the mainstream.The New York Times

[Invests creative energy] in discovering the rhymes and rhythms of American life. The Village Voice

On the edge of documentary and fiction. By the late ’60s, the liminal space between these two cinematic realms was fertile ground for exploration, and Kramer was at the vanguard.

The central concern of Robert Kramer’s cinema—how to reconcile the personal and the political, or in other words, how to live a meaningful life—is a timeless one. Los Angeles Times

Mayor's Award, Film Festival of Yamagata, Japan
Special Mention, Festival dei Popoli Florence, Italy
IDFA International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, The Netherlands

125 minutes / Color
Closed Captioned
Release: 1990
Copyright: 1989

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Subject areas:
Anthropology, Cinema Studies, Cultural Studies, Film History, History (U.S.)

Related Links:
The Films of Robert Kramer

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