RJ Film Festival 2010 Entries

Paris 888 – Gonzo Hitchhiking Documentary

4 hitchhikers looking for meaning on the road.

For many Road Junkies, hitchhiking is a way of life and though it’s been in decline with the media scares of the 80’s and 90’s, hitchhiking is now making a comeback with an annual hitching convention.

Paris 888 is a film from Fabrice Renucci and Martin Boserup which covers the journey of 4 hitchhikers on their way to the first hitch gathering in Paris on the 8th of August, 2008 – 888.

Paris 888 will be showing at the Road Junky Travel Film Festival on the 29th of May in Berlin, shortly after the talk of one of the stars, Ludovic Hubler.

RJ: Where did the inspiration for Paris 888 come?

Renucci: Once, my friend Pascal Dumont and myself were hitching back from Rotterdam and made a Tokyo sign. Our Dutch friend Erik loved it and came up with the idea to organize a hitchhiking race to the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, making people believe they had to hitch to Tokyo. The Dutch artist eventually pulled out and Pascal and I turned the event into a large European gathering to celebrate hitchhiking and encourage people to hitch. The European hitchhiking community beautifully helped us to carry the project forward and they organized the 789- the 2nd edition- and the 6.8.10. – the 3rd edition this summer.

RJ:. Was it hard to find hitchhikers willing to participate?

Renucci: I found all the hitchhikers and cameramen/women via Couchsurfing.com. It took just a couple of weeks. Once Radek- the philosopher- and Pascal- the Québécois- joined in I knew we had a film. I just knew we had a film because these two guys are so charismatic that crazy things just had to happen. And it did happen!

That was the easy part. The difficult part was to ‘direct’ the cameramen as they were located all over the place. Jean-Christophe Fournial came to visit me and we planned together most of the shots. I then organized a shooting plan that I posted on hitchwiki.org. But in the end, not enough preparation had been done which accounts for some of the rough edges the film we have but it is at the same time very much authentic.

RJ: Were there any problems trying to film the hitching experience? Were drivers nervous to let a cameraman into their car?

Renucci: I filmed Pascal and we hitched from Northern Turkey all the way to Paris. The key was not to hesitate and not to be afraid. I specifically made it clear with Pascal and myself that I would keep the camera rolling no matter what. Pascal always carefully explained the project we are doing and I think it helped to immediately gain the trust of drivers. But every time, within 10 seconds we knew who we were dealing with.

But things happened: we got kicked out of a gas station in Serbia, we were forbidden to film in gas stations around Serbia…But the most frustrating issue was that we were forbidden to film at the several borders we crossed. And some of our most gripping stories happened at the borders we crossed with a ‘drug dealer’…

RJ: Were there moments when you felt like giving up?

Renucci: We got stuck in Southern Serbia for 20 hours. It was hell. Nobody wanted to take us. But we always knew that when you are in down moments this is always when a good person is going to take you out of there. But the following day, the same thing happened: we couldn’t get out of Belgrade. We tried for 6 hours and were so down that we took a night train to Budapest. We felt so bad. We felt like we had betrayed the three other teams. All of these down moments are in the film.

RJ: Hitching is normally a pretty solitary thing, what do you see as the value of the gathering?

Renucci: The idea was to celebrate the renewal of hitchhiking, collect stories and inspire people to hitchhike or/and to pick up hitchhikers. The Eiffel Tower was the perfect stop to do that. We picked up some random strangers and told them about the hitchhiking experience. We even met a couple who hooked up in Corsica while hitchhiking and got married in Las Vegas 4 years ago.

RJ: What do you hope the film communicates to the audience?

Renucci: I hope the film somewhat transcribes the hitchhiking experience so that people who have never hitched rides or given lifts can get a feeling of what it is like.

RJ: Do you still hitchhike yourself?

Renucci: I still hitchhike once in a while but I move around a lot less now. Last January, I hitched from Berlin to Brussels round trip and had a great time. For the first time in my short hitchhiking life, a gas station from my map did not exist anymore so my driver had to drop me off in the middle of the motorway south of Eindhoven. The police showed up and gave me a ride to the next gas station. I waited some 15 minutes before hitching again as I didn’t want people to think I was a criminal or something!