In the documentary “True Fans” filmmaker Dan Austin sets out on a journey of goodwill that initially seems incredibly goofy and random. But a funny thing happens as the film progresses: it becomes increasingly apparent that Austin is sincere and that this movie has a lot more depth than one would have ever guessed.
Leaving from Venice Beach, California, Austin, his brother Jared and friend Clint Ewell plan to bike across America on ten dollars-a-day (and few supplies) to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts–all the while collecting the signatures of average people on a basketball–which they then plan to present to the Hall for “enshrinement”. A mere forty-eight hundred mile ride to be captured by a borrowed DV camcorder.
The trek included biking through the desert, Ewell getting dumped by his girlfriend during a call home and lots of rough terrain. During a stopover at Ewell’s Uncle Gary’s cabin in the Colorado mountains, the elder sage simultaneously dissects relationships and deconstructs the American Dream for the three hoop-loving bikers. “It’s all about greed, money, hatred, cynicism and capitalism,” he says, before launching a serious loogie.
His comments notwithstanding, there’s a kind of innocent idealism about the journey that seems genuine. Although, as Uncle Gary might note, it also gave Austin something to film a documentary about (starring himself).
The filmmaker and his co-stars run across a whole crowd of people who have made cross country jaunts by bicycle. A veritable sub-culture of Schwinn-straddling Kerouac’s–criss-crossing the continent, searching for something they can’t define.
For some reason, Dan Austin also stops in at Calvin Klein’s offices in Manhattan to pitch an idea for a cologne. Bemused underlings humor him for a short time before showing him the door. But you have to admire the way he just busts in on them via the freight elevator–armed with nothing but a half-baked idea and a s**t-eating grin.
This is followed by an assault on Subway (the sandwich store chain) headquarters, in Connecticut, where Austin corrals a company vice president to tell him the story of a Subway worker who’d let the bikers crash at his pad in Virginia–and demanding a raise for the minimum wage earning counter jockey.
Finally, at the Hall of Fame, they plead their case for enshrinement of the hallowed, much-signed basketball.
This is a surprisingly entertaining, highly original, witty and thoughtful film. Austin, with his off-the-cuff ingenuity, manages to capture the pioneering, adventurous spirit that America was built on while also making a documentary–ostensibly about basketball–that barely mentions the sport. A completely unexpected and totally engaging film.