THREE AND A HALF STARS Honouring John Steinbeck, five Australians cycle from Sallisaw, OK to Bakersville, CA.
As the US election of 2016 was warming up, five Australian lads decided to cycle across America. Inspired by the fictional Joad family from Steinbeck’s The Grapes Of Wrath, they embark on a seemingly impossible journey. What they lacked in experience (one had cycled little more than 20kms in his life), they made up for with sheer bloody-minded determination. The Joad’s story was one of gruelling poverty in the wake of years of drought. In the 1930’s they and thousands like them were driven from the dust-bowl of Oklahoma to find a new life in California. 80 years later and Oki’s have been replaced by immigrants determined to make a better life yet the story of discrimination, heartache and determination remains the same.
It’s against this backdrop that the 2600km, 29 day journey begins. The bikers head off with little more than a blanket on which to sleep and the same amount of cash as the Joads (inflation-adjusted). The rest they’ll work out as they go along. Apart from an inspiringly cheerful can-do attitude, what makes THE BIKES OF WRATH a pleasure to watch are the people they meet. Over and over again the lads engage with everyday locals who chip in to help make their ride that little bit easier - cash here, a free meal there, mechanical support, a warm bed, things that makes an otherwise gruelling experience a little better.
The film resonates most strongly when you consider that, by and large, these are the same cash-strapped people who would go on to vote Trump in the hope of a better life. It gives what has become an international nightmare a more human, and more explicable, face. Not that THE BIKES OF WRATH is a political film exactly, however documenting human experience is a political act and the people who delivered Trump’s America: a man mere days out of surgery who gives from his heart; another in desperate need of solace; the Hanning family who go miles out of their way, late at night, to cheer on the boys from Oz.
These are ordinary folk who share what little they’ve got to help those who need it more. They show the essential goodness of people; no matter their circumstances, no matter their plight. Rather like the novel itself.
Released by Demand Film. For session times visit https://au.demand.film/the-bikes-of-wrath/