As the title suggests, La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus, directed by Mark Kendall, follows the journey of a decommissioned bus first put up for auction in the United States which then travels to Guatemala where it trade hands and is put into service for privately owned and surprisingly violent public transportation business. Once in Guatemala, the familiar yellow school bus is colorfully decorated before being sent into service.
The most compelling parts of this story are about the man who drives from Guatemala to Tennessee to bid at a bus auction and about the corruption and violence surrounding the drivers who attempt to make a living providing service to people in need of transportation. The man who purchases the bus then hitches his car to the back of the bus and drives back to Guatemala where it is reconfigured and repainted.
However, even at just a little over an hour, the film begins to drag when it explores the meticulous process of decorating the buses. Yes, the buses turn out looking wildly colorful and amazing, but too much time is devoted to watching artists applying tape and spray painting the vehicles. After the screening, the director was on-hand and discussed some of the reasons why the Guatemalans decorate the buses in this fashion, facts that are mysteriously missing from the film.
Overall, La Camioneta is interesting thanks to the unique topic. Some judicious editing could go a long way in sustaining the interest generated in the opening half and make it a more convenient length for educational settings.
Using the festival’s scoring system, I rank La Camioneta as Good or 3 out of a possible 5.
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