You don’t have to love motorcycles to enjoy Somewhere Else Tomorrow, a 2013 documentary by German adventurer Daniel Rintz. But it certainly helps. The film is currently playing at the Darkside Cinema, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to support not only independent film, but independent film exhibition. Somewhere may not be the greatest documentary in history, but it may very well be the future of the genre, so there’s never been a better time to get on board.
The film covers the adventures of Rintz, who at the time of the journey was a young man fresh out of university with no concrete plans—except to ride around the world on a motorcycle with his best friend and no money but what they could earn on the road. He also filmed as much of the adventure as he could, which is great because a totally functional feature-length documentary came from all that footage.
To be honest, a lot of it is not that impressive. There are chunks of the film that don’t really show anything of tremendous value, other than giving insight in the rawness of Rintz’s filmmaking. Some of the cinematography is pretty pedestrian, and it’s clear they didn’t have the camera rolling at some pretty key points in the adventure, or that the footage they got was not good enough to make the final cut. But this all ends up playing to the strengths of the film.
It’s raw all over, in the best way possible. Among other things we get to see are the slow disintegration of his partner’s will to continue the trip (he ends up going home a few months into it), his meeting up with a new partner, the gorgeous once-in-a-lifetime experiences he has, the ups and downs of maintaining a bike on the road, and the assumptions we make about other cultures. It’s in this rawness that the movie’s beautiful honesty wins the day. Rintz isn’t perfect, and he obliviously at times shows off his relative cultural insensitivity, including a somewhat comical scene where he marvels at the “weirdness” of Arab culture vis-à-vis male-female embrace. But again, this is the movie’s strength; it wouldn’t be a marvel for a white European male to find acceptance and hospitality in countries like Iran and Pakistan, but it is marvelous to see these things happen to an unpretentious everyman who is honest about his own prejudices.
It’s also a movie for motorcycle lovers, and this bit can’t be discounted. For someone who has never owned or worked on their own bike, some of the adventures Rintz gets into, particularly when he’s stuck in the Middle East for an extended period while the bike’s frame needs to be replaced, are probably understood to a greater degree of familiarity by someone who has toured on two wheels.
But the accessibility of the film makes this a postscript, and that accessibility is born of the film’s rough edges. The traditional distribution and production methods are dying, and it won’t be long until documentaries like this, made by true independent non-filmmakers, are the norm and not the exception.
The amateurish build isn’t all to the movie’s benefit, however. The narration is a complete mess, with the film being narrated by Rintz, a guy interviewing him named Kristian Brunn, and the voice of his motorcycle “Marianne,” voiced by Megan Gay. It comes out confusing and jumbled, and at times completely useless chatter between Rintz and Brunn is recorded. And to be honest, I didn’t realize until at least halfway through the movie that the female narrator is supposed to be his bike. Plus the underlying rule, that he will only make money on the road by taking jobs, is a bit misleading: most of the jobs he takes aren’t manual labor for locals, but coding jobs on the Internet that he can do from anywhere.
But even in its failings there are charms. A more “professional” documentary would have eschewed a risky proposition like having the bike be a narrator. And Rintz, as one discovers watching his adventure, fears nothing.
It reminded me a lot of the documentary Walking the Camino, which screened at the Darkside last year. That was also a beautiful and moving look at the transformative power of a journey on an inquisitive soul. While that film followed many stories on the same journey, this film followed one story on many journeys. It’s our story: the story everyone lives, where we try to find our place in the world. Rintz finds his on the road and off it, on the sand dunes, on the trails, on the sidewalks, on the dirt paths, and on the faces of the people he meets. A moral like, “We’re all the same,” would sell this film short. We’re not all the same, but the only way to find out what we are is to go looking for it.
Somewhere Else Tomorrow is showing at the Darkside Cinema. Showtimes are listed at www.darksidecinema.com.
By Ygal Kaufman