The life of the tramp calls for all types of misfits to ride upon that train to freedom, to experience, to escape. There are the guys who come out of prison or the service to find that there isn’t a place for them in society anymore – f**k it, hit the rails. Then there are those that have never fit in anywhere – f**k it, hit the rails. And there are the teenagers who feel like they need to rebel against their middle class upbringing, so they strap on a backpack and say – f**k it, let’s hit the rails. Hell, even David Banner was a tramp of sorts; of course he had problems that I believe very few of us could ever identify with. The filmmakers of “Long Gone” analyze these cases and several others as they travel the country, riding trains with various tramps, becoming a part of their scattered, but tightly bonded family.
This is truly excellent documentary filmmaking. The filmmakers must have had to become tramps themselves in order to get so close to these people who, for the most part, are invisible to us Internet hobos. Several tramps are featured, including a guy who is falsely accused of murder and upon his release from the authorities, he is exploited by the fuckwads at “20/20.” Filmmakers David Eberhardt and Jack Cahill aren’t here to exploit these people; they’re here to let them tell their own stories. There’s also a guy who loves telling stories about a war he may have never been in, an old timer who is rapidly dying, but who also refuses to just lay down on the tracks and croak, and there is also a couple of teenagers who wind up getting hooked on the dope. Damn teenagers. Footage of the older, wiser hobos is absolutely captivating; especially when it’s shown how much love these people have for each other. On the other hand, footage of the traveling teens starts out fun, with the 18-year-old girl saying that she’s doing this for the travel, that she isn’t running away from anything, but when they reach New York, things take a downhill turn as they both get hooked on heroin. Their plight is despicable, but at the same time, this is probably how most of the lovable, older tramps started out. When you’re on the road, sooner or later that horse is gonna run over ya.
Anyone that says they don’t like documentaries because they’re boring and they don’t tell stories don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. On the contrary, good documentaries tell stories more fascinating than most narrative filmmakers can come up with. “Long Gone” is no exception.