Friday, 20 March 2015

La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus (2012)

March Around The World 2015 Challenge - Guatemala

The big yellow and entirely functional American school bus is an iconic image that is recognised throughout the world and one that I'll always associate with Dirty Harry - "Sing or I'll go home and kill all your mommies, sing, sing!", but give me a camioneta any day :)

Every year hundreds of old American school buses are driven down to Guatemala and other central American countries to be resurrected as public transport camionetas. This documentary follows one bus on it's trip down through America to its new home. From the purchase of the bus at auction, it's journey through the US, the fear felt by its driver in Mexico, to the bus's new home in Guatemala, and finally its transformation into a camioneta. It's almost like that this is what the bus wanted to be, what it needed to be. Its time as a school bus was just temporary until it reached home, entered its chrysalis of newspaper and masking tape, and finally emerged as a thing of beauty.

The film also focuses on the plight of the drivers and their fear of gangs, extortion, violence and death and the police's attempts to clampdown on the gangs. This is illustrated with footage of one such bus having been blown up by a "remote controlled grenade", apparently because the bus company didn't pay an extortioner their Christmas bonus. A poster in a police station shows that the ex-chief of police is a wanted man. Another poster warns of corruption in the force. Guatemala is a dangerous place and the life of a bus and its crew will be hard and dangerous.

It's Au Hasard Balthazar with a bus!

The year before this film was made, 130 bus drivers and 53 fare collectors were killed in Guatemala.

Original letterboxd review

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