CATCHING OUT features several contemporary hobos who dissent against mainstream American consumer culture by traveling for free on freight trains. The film follows a seasoned eco-activist named Lee, a young nomad named Jessica, and a tramp couple known as Switch and Baby Girl as they navigate between the constraints of society and the freedom of the road.
"...exhilarating..." Stephen Holden, New York Times Further Information:
"An intriguing story that will leave one thinking about it and even debating it for some time after the final credits." Phil Hall, Film Threat
Catalog Number: MC-784
Length: 80 minutes
DVD Region: 0
TV System: NTSC
Label: Worthy Entertainment
This program is closed captioned This is a Microcinema Exclusive title.
Program MC-784 is available for wholesale from Microcinema DVD. Contact info[at]microcinema.com or call at +1-415-447-9750
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Films In Compilation
Catching Out directed by
The phrase ‘Catching Out’ describes the act of hopping a freight train. In the documentary film “Catching Out,” several contemporary hobos dissent against mainstream American consumer culture by traveling for free on freight trains. The film features a seasoned eco-activist named Lee, a young nomad named Jessica, and a tramp couple known as Switch and Baby Girl. In three interwoven stories, “Catching Out” follows these trainhoppers as they navigate between the constraints of society and the freedom of the road.
2008-07-22New York Times By Stephen Holden
When focusing on its four main subjects, Catching Out is an absorbing, picturesque group portrait.
2008-07-08Curled up with a Good DVD By Ryan Strampe
Sarah George's Catching Out is a great documentary about the trainhopping and living-free lifestyle that features the personal stories of several individuals who embrace this way of life. You really get a chance to get to know these people - a single middle-aged man named Lee, a couple named Switch and Baby Girl, and a younger woman named Jessica - and how they function in the world they choose to inhabit.
In the film’s 80 short minutes, you follow these people through several years of their lives. Switch and Baby Girl seem to get a lot of screen time due to their leaving of the train-hopping culture for "normal" society. However, they have an interesting story that feels right for the documentary and in no way detracts from it. Additional interviews help to fill in the blanks and provide an overview of the culture and its history.
The only thing I could drum up against this film is that it does not give equal (or any) time to the opposing team. I think it would have been a good contrast to have a few interviews with the rail yard police who are mentioned several times in this film. While their perspective clearly would not have been in the spirit of the movie, it might have helped to illustrate the dangers involved with this lifestyle.
This film is unrated but fairly teen-friendly. A few F-bombs drop, and one scene involves discreet drug use. Another scene hints at some of the potential violence involved in this lifestyle - then again, reality is what it is. You see on the faces of the main characters that this can be a rough way to live. The film does a decent job of conveying that without getting too dramatic or apologetic.
Catching Out features some excellent cinematography, and the narration is heartfelt and honest. I would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in this subject.
2008-06-05DVD Talk By Chris Neilson
Alison Murray and Sarah George share a fascination with train hopping, but their approach as indie documentarians varies considerably. Rather than toss a couple cameras in a backpack and catch out on her own for a few weeks to film the visceral experience of train hopping as Alison Murray did for her remarkable first-person account, Train on the Brain (2000), Sarah George approached Catching Out (2003) in a more methodical manner. Starting well before Murray began Train on the Brain and finishing well after her, George lined up a number of interviews, scoped out particular rail lines and locals, drew up a shooting schedule, did a couple weeks of illegal train hopping with a full film crew, shadowed by a support van, and then spent several more years getting additional material to round out her mediative examination of this alternative lifestyle.
Without becoming a character herself, George principally documents four train hoppers through their own words: Switch and Baby Girl, a twenty-something couple with proletarian roots who met in a California soup kitchen; Jessica, a young UC Berkeley dropout raised by a hippy vagabond mom; and, Lee, a middle-aged, introspective eco-anarchist from an upper-middle class family. The first half of Catching Out consists of interviews with these free spirits largely in open boxcars moving through desolate stretches of the American West.
At the time of their first interview, Switch and Baby Girl are probably the closest in circumstance to the traditional stamp tramps of bygone days. They're poor people with limited opportunities whose only options within the world of paychecks and fixed abodes are dead-end jobs and substandard rentals. Switch & Baby Girl muse on their decision to forgo striving for the American Dream:
Switch: I feel a lot freer that the average person. I don't have the worry about the bills, and the rent, and the materialistic things.
Baby Girl: We live with the very basics, and people think there's something wrong with us; we have to be converted, or helped, or treated. You don't need the world, you just need the basics food, air, shelter, and love.
Switch and Baby Girl are the train hoppers I worry most about. They're vulnerable in ways that Jessica and Lee are not. Revelations in the follow-up interview in the second half of the film partially confirms and partially assuages my worries.
There's general agreement that the days of the train tramps and hobos are rapidly coming to a close. Increased security concerns, consolidated freight ownership, and less permissive attitudes have combined to increase enforcement and discourage train hopping. Like most of those in what is likely the final large wave of train hoppers, Jessica proudly counts herself as a punk. For Jessica, being a punk means that she can walk into any town in America and find another punk that will give her something to eat and a place to stay. When Sarah George first interviews Jessica she's just dropped out of UC Berkley undergrad and is train hopping with a boyfriend. Though she's in the same circumstances as Baby Girl--traveling the rails with a boyfriend, with no certain future plans--it's immediately obvious that Jessica has options that Baby Girl never will. There's little doubt that Jessica will be able to move on to a comfortable, yet still bohemian life, when she chooses to do so.
Lee is a mix of iconic hobo-philosopher and modern eco-anarchist. During the initial interview with Lee we learn that he logs more than 10,000 miles on the rails a year, and considers train hopping "one of those few genuinely American things like jazz, or having sex in cars." He takes great pleasure in the "deep conversations that people on the trains" have. Lee is fiercely anti-consumerist. He places great value in not being in thrall to materialism. One comes away with the sense that of the four principal interviewees, Lee is the most likely to remain happily on the periphery of the mainstream culture all his days.
After the two weeks of principal photography wrapped, Sarah George continued to work on Catching Out as time and money permitted. Over a period of several years, she revisited Switch, Baby Girl, Jessica and Lee, interviewed other rail riders, attended a west coast gathering of train hoppers, and shot additional b-roll of trains and rail yards. The interviews with additional train hoppers and the gathering feel like add-ons to pad out the time to get it to the feature-length runtime of 79 minutes, but the supplementary interviews with Switch, Baby Girl, Jessica and Lee are useful in covering a dramatic change of circumstances for Switch and Baby Girl, and in providing greater depth in the backgrounds and motivations of Jessica and Lee. Although this material is interesting, the transition from the interviews aboard the moving trains to the interviews in apartments and houses is a letdown.
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Documentary > Catching Out: A Film About Trainhopping and Living Free
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