5-star movie The makers of this cult movie  used real off-grid kids living in Portland, Oregon.  They were part of a group that moves around the country by freight train.

It won Best Picture Award from the Toronto Film Critics Association, and is now out on DVD.  The film centers on misfortunes that befall a woman, Wend, traveling with her dog to find work in Alaska.

The film co-stars Will Oldham (aka Bonnie Prince Billie)Wendy is played by Michelle Williams, who earned an Oscar nomination for her role in “Brokeback Mountain.” The film’s Director, Kathy Reichardt told NPR: “Wendy makes some bad decisions, as people do. You know that I guess the whole story sort of came about in just post-Katrina. And where there seemed to be more than ever this sentiment of, people shouldn’t let their lives get quite so precarious, and they wouldn’t find themselves in this situation. And so as the gap between the rich and the poor was becoming wider during the Bush years, I think John Raymond and I were just asking ourselves when we were coming up with an idea for the story, just is it really possible to pull yourself up from your bootstraps in America if you don’t have the benefit of health insurance, education, a financial net, a family net?

“Is all you need is the gumption and an idea to get out and do something differently to better your circumstances? Is that really enough? And so that’s  the nugget that we started with.

There’s a scene early in the film where Wendy meets up around a campfire with a group of people that are just traveling, living on the margin, gutter punks is the phrase used.

“They’re kids,” said Reichardt.  “There’s quite a huge network of young people living off the grid. And these kids, they’re homeless, and they travel all over the country, and they travel by trains. It’s dangerous post-9-11 to be hopping trains, but they do it. And Portland, is a place where there’s a community and you maybe stop there for a while and you know, lick your wounds before setting back out.

“We had a local casting man in Portland named Simon Max Hill, who really just made the scene with these kids and brought them in so I could meet them. And you know it’s forever evolving and changing because they’re in motion and they don’t stick around for long. So he actually had a few kids living at his house near the end just to keep them in town.

“They’re just kids living in various places and traveling around on trains. Mostly outdoor places where they’re living.”

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

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