Words by Adam Abada
Simply put: America Awaits is awesome. As in full of awe.
I didn’t think it would be. It started clumsily and even ends just as much so. But I felt a deep, subdued awe the whole time. Clay Shank is your humble narrator, and he made this 35 minute long flick of a road trip he took with Jeremy Tuffli from Portland, OR, to Boulder, CO, just because he thought he had something to show us. Jeremy is a skater, carpenter and skatepark builder who makes truly badass work—in this instance, a wooden camper room built into the bed of his pickup truck. He slept in it the duration of the trip. Clay slept outside. It’s never discussed in the film but you see it constantly and can’t help but wonder about its beauty and function and place in the world, and America Awaits does just the same thing.
The movie is shot on a handheld Sony camera intended for taking pocket digital photos. It’s shaky and contrasty, and has all the aesthetic hallmarks of any dad-cam video but in Clay’s hands it became unmistakably assured. What at first looks like amateur attempts at sound and video editing becomes an audiovisual collage of a thoughtful traveler making poignant observations about the world.
The film rips through landscapes as if they are flying by your window on a road trip; you see them but you never get to know them, and that’s OK. Abandoned water parks, swimming pools, a heaping helping of concrete and coping, backyard ramps—you name it. The variety of gnarly spots is endless. And peppered through it all are the kinds of fleeting but—especially when massed together—meaningful observations with people that one might have on a road trip of their own. Kids give their innocent views of what America is. Girls try dropping in at their local park, free of criticism. Off-camera narrators give their extremely opinionated views on the state of the country. And what is the state of the country? I have no idea. And this film didn’t help me find it. But Clay’s present, respectful, and inquisitive chronicle of one trip let me know it sure as shit is out there waiting.