Who Is Bozo Texino?

2005 | 00:56:00 | United States | English | B&W | Mono | 4:3

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: Aging, Art History, Culture Jamming, Documentation, Expedition/Travel, Experimental Film, Graffiti, Landscape, Memory, Myth, Outsider Art, Visual Art

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The secret history of hobo and railworker graffiti. Shot on freight trips across the western US over a period of 16 years, Who is Bozo Texino? chronicles the search for the source of a ubiquitous rail graffiti--a simple sketch of a character with an infinity-shaped hat and the scrawled moniker, "Bozo Texino"--a drawing seen on railcars for over 80 years. This Spectacular Travel Adventure Faithfully Photographed In Realistic Black And White Film At Considerable Risk From Speeding Freight Trains And In Secret Hobo Jungles In The Dogged Pursuit Of The Impossibly Convoluted And Heretofore Untold History Of The Century-Old Folkloric Practice Known As Hobo And Railworker Graffiti And Chronicling The Absurd Quest For The True Identity Of Railroading's Greatest Artist Will Likely Amuse And Confound You In Its Sincere Attempt To Understand And Preserve This Mysterious Artform.

"Bill Daniel's homegrown epic is as kinetic and raggedly beautiful as the trains he hopped to make it. A film about freedom as literal passage across the land. Corporations brand things to say they own them, but there are ways in which humans have marked things to say they can't be owned." 

-- Jem Cohen

Who Is Bozo Texino? is a great American movie, and its greatness is tied up very closely with its American-ness. With this brilliant experimental documentary, self-styled hobo film-maker Daniel places himself firmly in the boot prints of Jack London, Jack Kerouac, Walt Whitman, Woody Guthrie--a fine, long tradition of American artists who look for their inspiration to the marginal, the underclass, the vagabond and the outcast. Nominally a chronicle/ survey/ history of boxcar graffiti (a tradition as old as the railroad itself) and the men who create it, Who Is Bozo Texino? soon transcends its narrow subject-matter to become a gloriously rough-edged elegy for an America, which is being swept away before our eyes. Unlike the overwhelming majority of documentaries--even entertaining recent examples like Murderball, Dogtown and Z-Boys and Stoked--Daniel's film manages a near-perfect union of radical form and radical content, And it does so in consistently accessible style: at first you're intrigued by the stunning monochrome images captured by his self-effacing, sensitively-handled camera(s); by the startling kineticism of his fluent editing style; by the sheer range of voices, music and sound-effects we hear as he tracks down a series of grizzled hobos and wisdom-dispensing graffiti-'markers.' Then you realise that, just as these men have always instinctively rejected authority and convention, Daniel (who has made a fantastic old-school poster for the movie) has likewise embraced the unorthodox in his style of filmmaking--even down to his choice of title and running-time. Indeed, in less than an hour Daniel manages to say more about life, art, America and the simple joy of filmmaking than most directors manage in decades.

— Neil Young, from Neil Young's Film Lounge

Exhibitions + Festivals

Art in the Streets, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2011

All the Wrong Art: Juxtapoz Magazine on Film, MoMA, New York, 2011