87 minutes, 2002, DVCAM

“This is Nowhere”
by Christopher Null

Ever wonder who’s driving those RVs around the country? Well This is Nowhere provides the definitive answer, while also explaining why they all seem to love Wal-Mart so much.

Filmmaker Doug Hawes-Davis goes out of his way to tell us that RVers aren’t crazy old paranoids on the run from Uncle Sam. Well, not all of them, anyway. From the inner workings of an expandable Winnebago to a zippy demonstration of the sewage system, the mystique of this road-tripping subculture is discussed with all due deference. Then again, the comments about Ay-rabs and Orientals are a bit telling: The Heartland doesn’t quite live the same way as they do on the coasts.

What’s the Wal-Mart connection? Well, Wal-Mart has an unwritten policy of allowing RVs to park in its expansive parking lots overnight. As a result, Wal-Mart gets a lot of business from the alleged 2.8 million people who are permanently on the road. They even print the address of every Wal-Mart in the road Atlas they sell to make it easy to find the next day’s rest stop.

In the end, though, Hawes-Davis’s documentary is amusing for its candid discussions with the crackpots on the road. Some are just interested in traveling without restriction—“Freedom is what America’s all about!” is a common refrain—but for every free spirit there’s a guy with a cat who wants to ship his RV to Europe and just drive around over there, too. (Somebody tell him there aren’t any Wal-Marts in Paris.)
It’s a very amusing curiosity that could have stood for more depth. But then again, a documentary is only as deep as its subject matter.