AN AMERICAN MONK Image

AN AMERICAN MONK

By Kevin Carr | December 16, 2003

This trailer for a potential feature follows Alex Hiff, who left his life behind to wander the land of the United States to find himself. The journey began in 1999 and is continuing even today.
The event that caused Hiff to shrug off his material possessions was an accident he witnessed in which a young girl was struck by a car and killed during a school snow day. From the trailer, it is unclear whether Hiff was involved in the accident himself or if he simply witnessed it.
Hiff has become the American Monk who lives on a vow of poverty. He survives on the hospitality of others – the farmers, hobos and teachers he meets during his travels.
Hiff has made audio and video recordings of his travels, which are cobbled together to make this film. Told in documentary style, the film uses these recordings of Hiff as he wanders the country and “talks to people.” There is no deeper meaning that the words themselves.
A slice of American life is a beautiful thing, however, there is nothing compelling about the people profiled in the trailer itself. They are the average folks. We don’t see the gritty underbelly of the human condition. Nor do we get to see the quirkiness of strangers that is so compelling in films like American Movie and “Taxicab Confessions.” Sure, “An American Monk” might be warm and cuddly, but it didn’t quite grab me.
Included within the trailer are some exquisitely shot footage of Hiff wandering through Midwestern farmland. However, as beautiful as the film footage looks, it is terribly jarring to swing back into the crisp video image.
Additionally, the choice of the filmmakers to promote this trailer as “documentary style” rather than “a documentary” begs the question of how contrived it may be. From watching the footage, it appears to be genuine, but so did scenes from The Blair Witch Project.
If you like snapshots of middle America, this seems to be a film for you. However, the snippets of interviews we are treated to throughout the trailer leave a lot to the imagination and regretfully reinforce the notion that many people in this country are actually quite boring.

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