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Beyond Erehwon:
This Is Nowhere

a new film from High Plains Films

Attention, documentary film lovers! A new production from the award winning independent studio, High Plains Films This is Nowhere is being released with a premier on Montana Public Television., soon be released to theatrical, broadcast, educational and home video markets. The 87 minute film, which documents the motivations and philosophies of RV travelers who camp in Wal Mart parking lots, was four years in the making. Montana Public Television will be a presenting station when the film is released for broadcast.

Nearly three million Americans live full-time in motor homes, campers and trailers. Millions more spend significant portions of each year wandering America in their homes on wheels. Taking advantage of the modern American landscape, tens of thousands of vacation and full-time travelers steer their Recreational Vehicles (RVs) into Wal-Mart parking lots each year to "camp" for a night or two.

2001 Montana Individual Artist Fellowship winner, Doug Hawes-Davis, and co-director John Lilburn set out to document this emerging social phenomenon with the idea that this story was bigger than a few wayward tourists with curious tastes in camping spots. The result is This is Nowhere. Producer Hawes-Davis explains. "The inherent contradiction of 'camping' in a box-store parking lot seemed like the perfect starting place for exploring cultural attitudes towards nature, community, and sense of place. We were surprised, however, by how eager our interview subjects were to discuss these same themes. After the very first night of interviews we realized that we could tie together many related issues in the same film. Themes of urban sprawl, tourism, and consumerism are accessed by examining RV camping in Wal-Mart parking lots."

Lilburn adds, "What we found so compelling is that Wal-Marts are becoming important and valuable travel destinations, just as National Parks, museums and historic sites are important travel destinations. It's clear the phenomenon is a reflection of ongoing changes in American culture."

The travelers' rationale for seeking out Wal-Marts as travel destinations provides a fascinating portrait of American culture at the dawn of the 21st century. "The travelers we interviewed are not out of the ordinary," says filmmaker Hawes-Davis. "They are representative Americans who share a common bond of loving to travel in RVs, and loving Wal-Mart. Most of them are interested in nature, meeting new people, learning about our nation's history, or just plain new experiences, but they are also interested in the predictability, homogeneity, and sameness that Wal-Mart provides for travel and shopping." And I'd add the hoped for ease of finding a safe spot to camp close to the interstate.

The film highlights the music of Ned Mudd, of Birmingham, Alabama, but also includes tracks from Missouri alt-country rockers, The Incontinentals and others. Montana musician, Aaron Parrett, also recorded music for the film. One music reviewer described Mudd's work this way, "Mudd's music defies nailing down, as does the artist. If forced to play one style of music for more than a few days, he'd give it all up and do something meaningful. It's about soul, not style. His music is as much picture as sound."

This is Nowhere is the third feature documentary from High Plains Films, the Montana-based non-profit production company which has released fifteen films that document "the relationship between nature and society." Two earlier feature documentaries, Varmints (1998) which has been called "the Schindler's List of wildlife documentaries," and Killing Coyote (2000), winner of the John Michaels Award at the 23rd Big Muddy Film Festival, have received wide acclaim.

Full of irony, This is Nowhere humorously captures the essence of American attitudes toward nature, equality, liberty and civic values. This is Nowhere was financed by the Fund for Wild Nature and Montana Public Television.

"Ingenious editing....witty, profound and inventive, this is documentary filmmaking at its best."
Missoula Independent

"In an age of market globalization and shifting individual identities, it's important that we look around us at the focal points of people's habits and passions. This is Nowhere does just that with a curious segment of U.S. society-well-off retirees who tour the country in RVs and camp out in Wal-Mart parking lots. With this focus, the people at High Plains Films are able to probe not issues of urban sprawl, marketization, and cultural homogeneization. At the same time, the film reveals several contradictions experienced by this group of people (and many of us): for example, expressing our freedom yet choosing sameness, simplying life but trying to 'have it all,' valuing community yet spending time in ways that make community increasingly out of reach, and 'rediscovering' nature
from the perspective of pavement.
George Cheney, Director of Graduate Studies,
Dept. of Communication, University of Montana

"Excellent...a funny, endearing and sometimes sorroful look at the people who call themselves 'Wally Worlders.'"
Montana Kaiman

*** *** ***
Up-coming High Plains Films screenings/broadcasts:

- PBS stations - check local listings
- FSTV (Dish Network satellite)

KILLING COYOTE, 83 minutes, 2000
- FSTV (Dish Network satellite)
- DHTV-Channel 21/St. Louis, Missouri
Wednesday, May 22, 2002, 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 23, 2002, 11:00 a.m.
Sunday, May 26, 2002, 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday, May 29, 2002, 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 30, 2002, 11:00 am
Sunday, June 2, 2002, 8:00 p.m.

VARMINTS, 91 minutes, 1998
- June 23-27 - North American Prairie Conference/Kirksville, Missouri
- June 28 - 911 Media Arts Center/Seattle, Washington
- FSTV (Dish Network satellite)

WIND RIVER, 34 minutes, 1999
- FSTV (Dish Network satellite)

*** ***

More Information:

High Plains Films
P.O. Box 8796, Missoula, Montana 59807 (406) 543-6726

© Spencer Creek Press, West By Northwest 2000-2002 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise noted.

The opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily the opinions of the publisher and/or sponsors.



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