Routes (PG)

Directed by Alex Reuben
Screening at FACT from August 8th 2008

Reviewed by Anthony Swords

Two films showing at Fact this week are both documentaries but anyone hoping to see something along the lines of Louis Theroux will be sorely disappointed. I was not. The first, My Winnipeg, is Guy Maddin’s homage (or maybe paean) to his hometown. Alex Reuben’s Routes, however, is a much more sober film but as equally engrossing. Here, the director knows he has an interesting subject and his unassuming style does not get in its way.

The film is a showcase, in the guise of a road movie, of the various styles of music and dance forms that are found across the southern United States. Whether in a packed club or empty saloon bar, a church service or a street parade dancing is everywhere and is as much a part of the landscape of this region as the trees and fields we see rolling by Reuben’s car window. Reuben avoids the temptation to use a voice over or to interview any of the participants. In fact there are hardly any words spoken throughout the piece unless in song yet the narrative is clear. Here actions speak louder than words.

Reuben’s camera is quite often still, allowing the performances to speak for themselves however he will at times move shakily through jostling crowds or as in one exhilarating sequence cut rapidly from one set of cheerleaders to another in order to capture their energetic and up front performance at an American Football game.

The film is intoxicating and I caught myself more than once tapping my feet vigorously, albeit on my own as I looked around at my fellow viewers, but Reuben cuts frequently to the audiences and appreciative spectators in his film to let you know you are in good company should the rhythm grab you too.

Alex Reuben’s film is simple and raw, joyously capturing the spiritual and communal experience of dance.

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