Would you ever consider taking hitchhiking to the next level by asking strangers in real time to sleep on their couch across America? As many of you know, I am (and have always been) obsessed with interacting with strangers and observing what can ensue when people are forced to engage with each other in social settings. My first blog was called Encounters with Strangers and I wrote about those types of encounters in my epynomous first book. So when I learned about a documentary that features two young American college kids asking strangers to put them up for the night while they traveled across the country for 60 days, my eyebrows raised. Despite this being a cool concept for a film that takes the viewer on a very different kind of road trip, I appreciated that Greg and his girlfriend/filmmaking partner, Sarah, set out to prove a point: Americans want to connect with each other and there are good people out there.
In the film, American Bear, Sarah and Greg meet incredible people whose stories are shared in the film. They realize that their own race and position in society at the time (heterosexual college kids) enabled them to easily attain the goal of producing a film like this, but in doing so they hope to relate a powerful message to the masses about America in general. Here’s what Greg shared with me about the project:
“Sarah and I set out to make the film because we wanted to share something positive about how people can interact with one another. The media often encourages us to be scared, scared of our neighbors, the people on the other side of town, the people on the other side of the world – and that’s not how we see the world. While meeting so many generous, open people on the road, we believe many other people have a more hopeful view of each other as well. Our film shows Americans eager for connection, wanting to share their story, and share compassion. At the same time, our experience was greatly influenced by our identities. Sarah and I are both white, in a heterosexual relationship, young, and college students when we were filming these identities, which had a huge impact on our experience. The people who were so generous to us may not have been as generous and trusting with people who presented different identities. American Bear is a powerful starting point to discuss what privilege looks like in America, and we were grateful to share the film with audiences directly during our national screening tour and engage in critical conversation at every event.”
The online version of the film just became available across multiple platforms (Amazon, iTunes, etc.). To watch it, go here and to learn more about the project and what’s next for the filmmakers, go to www.AmericanBearFilm.com.