87 minutes, 2002, DVCAM

“Film Takes Look at Wal-Mart Rvers”
RV Business, April 14, 2003

Private campground operators have complained for years about Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores’ encouragement of free, overnight parking at store locations across North America.

RVers openly take advantage of Wal-Mart’s hospitality every night, And, more often than not, they return the favor by purchasing a few items from the retail behemoth during their stay.

Now, a Missoula, Mont.-based filmmaker has satirically spotlighted Wal-Mart RV parking in a tongue-in-cheek belief that this practice says something significant about 21st century American culture and the values of today’s RV enthusiasts.
In fact, High Plains Films’ 87-minute documentary attempts to paint a rather disturbing picture of this slice of American culture in its video production titled , “This is Nowhere.” The film was released last year and is gradually making its way across the country, often at independent film festivals, and picking up disturbing reviews along the way.

“The documentary begins, innocently enough, as a record of this quirky fringe group of people,” writes James Griffin in Birmingham Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Birmingham, Ala. “But midway through the movie, the agenda of the film begins to noticeably change. It goes from being solely about the community of RVers to being a commentary on the effects of sprawl on the American landscape and the homogenization of contemporary society.  After this shift, the folks interviewed in the film seem endearingly naive fully aware of the effects that both their RVs and their constant reliance on Wal-Marts have on the environment and on the quickly fading downtowns across America, yet unable to part with the convenience of it all, like children who just can’t let go of their security blankets.”

Philadelphia-based Greenworks TV takes its review a step further: “The film paints a disturbing, almost tragic, portrait of people looking for something different, yet wanting everything to be the same. People yearning for simplicity and adventure, without wanting to give up comfort and convenience.”

“Why should a traveler have to endure any hardship?” asks a reviewer for SF Indiefest, a publication for the San Francisco Independent Film Festival. “Meet the new breed of traveler who wishes to ‘camp’ in absolute comfort, without the messy dirt, fire, outhouses, trees or animals.”

George Cheney, director of graduate studies at the University of Montana’s department of communications, believes the film underscores many contradictions in American society. “For example,” he says, “expressing our freedom, yet choosing sameness, simplifying life, but trying to ‘have it all,’ valuing community, yet spending time in ways that make community increasingly out of reach, and ‘rediscovering’ nature from the perspective of pavement.”

There’s no need for those wondering if RVing will become a full-time obsession for this documentary team. Next up for the Montana outfit is a documentary look at an asbestos-contaminated Montana community.