Five Movies Every Aspiring Overlander Should Watch

15-10-2017 11:00 AM

Most of our pop culture, movies and music, books and web series, talk about travel in its most popular forms – road trips, legendary train journeys, the European bylanes (yes, we are looking at you, After Sunrise!) and more. Overlanding, in its most authentic form, has documentaries and a few pop culture mentions.

So whether you need inspiration or just a little primer as you plan your next big overlanding adventure through India, we decided come up with a list of must-watch movies. Tell us in comments if you would like to add more names.

1. Timescapes (2012)
TimeScapes is the debut effort from award-winning cinematographer and director Tom Lowe. The silent film showcases stunning slow-motion and timelapse cinematography of landscapes, people, and wildlife of the American South West.

2. The Baraka-Chronos-Samsara trilogy
Another set of non-narrative masterpieces, this is an award-winning series of abstract cinema whose colours, sights, and scenes will not only thrill the traveler in you but also make you curious and think a little harder about the world we live in – a trait that always holds overlanders in good stead.

Chronos is a 1985 abstract film directed by Ron Fricke, created with custom-built time-lapse cameras. It is a 42 minutes long video and has no actors or dialogue. The soundtrack consists of a single continuous piece by composer Michael Stearns. Filmed in dozens of locations on five continents, the film relates to the concept of time passing on different scales—the bulk of the film covers the history of civilization, from pre-history to Egypt to Rome to Late Antiquity to the rise of Western Europe in the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to the modern era. It centers on European themes but not exclusively. Other time scales include the passing of seasons, and the passing of night and day, and the passing shadows of the sun in an afternoon to the passing of people on the street. These themes are intermingled with symbolic meaning.

Baraka is a documentary film with no narrative or voice-over. It explores themes via a kaleidoscopic compilation of natural events, life, human activities and technological phenomena shot in 24 countries on six continents over a 14-month period. Locations featured include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Ryoan temple in Kyoto, Lake Natron in Tanzania, burning oil fields in Kuwait, the smouldering precipice of an active volcano, a busy subway terminal, tribal celebrations of the Maasai in Kenya, and chanting monks in the Dip Tse Chok Ling monastery. The film features a number of long tracking shots through various settings, including Auschwitz and Tuol Sleng, over photos of the people involved, past skulls stacked in a room, to a spread of bones. It suggests a universal cultural perspective: a shot of an elaborate tattoo on a bathing Japanese yakuza precedes a view of tribal paint.

The official website describes the film as "expanding on the themes they developed in Baraka (1992) and Chronos (1985)”. Samsara explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of humanity's spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara almost takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation.

Source: Wikipedia pages of Baraka, Chronos and Samsara

3. The Straight Story
“The Straight Story” is a touching tale of Alvin Straight, a former truck driver and laborer, who at 73, arthritic and almost blind, decide to cover a make a 250 mile overland journey on his – wait for it – lawnmower.

Despite a top speed of 8 km/hr and incessant breakdowns, Alvin was on mission. He needed to reach his brother, Henry, who had recently suffered a stroke.

Alvin’s choice of vehicle was not an “offbeat”, “eccentric” choice made purely for popularity. It was, in fact, his only choice. He did not have a driving license due to his vision. So he chose the only vehicle he was allowed to ride.

Starting in July 1994, Alvin Straight rode lawn mower along highway shoulders. His vehicle also towed a trailer loaded with camping gear, gasoline, food, and essentials for the road.

The Straight Story is not just a legendary road movie but also one of human spirit and all the things it makes possible.

4. El Camino Real - Overlanding Central America
This documentary follows four best friends as they prepare themselves for a massive road trip from Albuquerque, New Mexico to San Jose, Costa Rica. After finishing his PhD in Vulcanology at the University of New Mexico, Maarten de Moor is offered a job with the Siesmic and Volcanic Observatory of Costa Rica. He convinces his younger brother Alex and two best friends, Zach LaPointe and Scott Jasechko to help him make the move to Costa Rica by car. The determination, spirit and will of these four friends is put to the test by various obstacles along the way while engaging in the wonders and magic of Central America.

If you want to see what an overland expedition is really like, with its trials, tribulations, and many rewards, this 52-minute story of four best friends is a great place to start.


5. Easy Rider
This 1969 epic drama is all about the journey. Coming from the year when counter culture and the concept of “true freedom” were fast disappearing, Easy Rider is the story of two free-spirited protagonists latching on to the best years of their lives.

The movie, more than a roadtrip story about two friends, is really about cultural transformation of America as civil society started to close its doors to who they now saw as “hippie weirdos”. This transformation could not have been shown in a single American city, so the movie traverses cities, towns, and villages as the change truly unfolds to the two ‘60s souls.

Clearly one of the best that the category has to offer, the film was recognized and awarded at Cannes and the 42nd Academy Awards. The film finds itself at number 88 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Years, 100 Movies listing. Easy Rider was added to the United States National Film Registry in 1998 and was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."