A film by Albert Maysles, Lynn True, Nelson Walker, Ben Wu, David Usui 2015, U.S., 76 minutes
IN TRANSIT is a journey into the hearts and minds of passengers aboard Amtrak's Empire Builder, the busiest long-distance train route in America. Filmed over multiple trips in 2014-15 with unique access from Amtrak, IN TRANSIT unfolds as a series of interconnected vignettes, ranging from overheard conversations to moments of great intimacy, ultimately revealing a deeply personal portrait of America. As the train traverses the country, passing through major cities, suburbs, farmland, oil fields, mountains and forest, the diverse landscape serves as a complementary backdrop to the passengers’ hopes, fears and dreams.
Among the film’s subjects are a young mother-to-be, who at nine months pregnant is traveling home to Minneapolis in anticipation of her baby’s birth, a woman who is returning from visiting her daughter for the first time in over 47 years, a photographer from New York City whose recent heart attack will likely make this journey his last, and a man who leaves a lucrative oil field job in order to rekindle a romance with his high school sweetheart. Each passenger aboard the train has a moving story to tell, be it full of humor, tragedy or hope.
A life-long admirer of trains, Albert Maysles had dreamed of making a film that captured the personal stories, shared experiences, and worldly insights that trains inspire. As he put it, “I wanted to make a film about trains, but really about the unity of humankind. Films can have the power of getting viewers to see themselves as they experience directly the feelings, hopes and problems of others.” In today’s fast-paced digital world, the train serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of human connection. On the train, riders are swept into a fleeting community that transcends normal barriers, where complete strangers can become intimate friends. And at the same time, audiences are given pause to look inward and contemplate personal journeys. To some passengers, the train is flight and salvation, to others it is reckoning and loss, but for all it is a place for reflection and finding common ground. As the Empire Builder crisscrosses the country, a loving portrait of America emerges in its full human and natural beauty.
In Transit journeys into the hearts and minds of passengers aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder, the busiest long-distance train route in America. Unfolding as a series of interconnected vignettes, ranging from overheard conversations to moments of deep intimacy, In Transit offers a window into the lives of everyday people as they share their fears, hopes and dreams. In the space between stations, where ‘real life’ is suspended, we are swept into a fleeting community that transcends normal barriers, and where a peculiar atmosphere of contemplation and community develops. To some passengers, the train is flight and salvation, to others it is reckoning and loss. But for all, it is a place for personal reflection and connecting with others they may otherwise never know.