I have to hand it to you, I enjoyed your documentary immensely. When I started your film I had some previous concerns. Somehow I had got it into my head the film was put about to bash Chris and I was somewhat confused and pleasantly surprised when I watched it. I thought you did a wonderful job as a film maker, a story teller and someone who admired(?) Chris. Your version of the story is much, much better than Into The Wild and I think Chris would have been proud of the job you did...really I just wanted to write you to let you know the film was great and I will be looking out for other work you produce.
I'm writing this to say thank you for the truth you've given to the Christopher Mccandless story. After reading the book and seeing both films, I'm one hundred and ten percent sure that your film is the closest we'll ever get to truly understanding Chris. Not only has it given justice to McCandless, but I feel that you've helped me put my life a little better into perspective. Ever since I was a young kid, I've always wanted to push myself to the extremes, live life on the edge, do things that other people would never think of doing, and so far I've been lucky. I'm still here and in one piece. However this Novemeber being my eighteenth birthday, my parents are losing their control over my decisions, so the danger level of my trips will only increase. Your film really made me look over my plans I've had since I was ten years old, and while I'm not changing what I'm looking for or what I'm going to do, it made me realize how short life can be. I've had plenty of close calls, never really worrying about the fall, thinking it would only end my physical existence. Now I realize that I'm not willing to leave what I have here behind yet, I don't think I'll ever be. The beauty of being able to walk out into the woods and be completely alone or to come home to great friends who love you and care about you is the most beautiful thing in life. Anyway I don't know where I'm going with this, so I'll just stop rambling and say thank you one more time.
James William Pezet
I felt compelled to write and thank you for making, The Call of the Wild. It's a great gift that you've created for our generation, and I appreciate that you dedicated the film to Generation X. You are a talented filmmaker with an understanding of our generation. You understand why Chris McCandless means so much to us. I especially liked the trip down memory lane everything "Super friends" to "Land of the Lost", to my other favorite Generation X hero, (although I don't know his name)...the guy who stood in front of the army tank at Tiananmen Square.
The author's of the book, The Fourth Turning (Strauss and Howe) studied generations in America. If you haven't read it, please check it out. They referred to our generation as "13'ers" because we are the 13th generation in America. In the 1980's, I actually had a teacher in high school who told our class that we were bad luck for our country, and he seemed to blame us for Vietnam, Watergate, and the entire decline of American industry. Our parents were getting getting divorced while we watched music videos. It is true that we've never really known a time when our country was "on track".
Again, thanks. I'm also a father (of two children), I know it must have been difficult for you to spend so much time away from your family; I can't even imagine how much hard-work went into the film.
Thanks for coming to Fairbanks last night. I really enjoyed your film. I felt it perfectly captured my mixed feelings for his story.
I moved to Denali Park/Healy in the 1994 to work as a backcountry ranger for the Park Service. Albeit a little cliche, I was a 20-year-old with a backpack and a copy of Desert Solitaire. While I pursued the Wilderness for similar reasons, I was nowhere near as committed to the experience as Chris. I think having been witness to the death of a good friend when I was 16 allowed me to see the tragic result of a premature death. Chris and I differed in that I recognized that self preservation is a responsibility we owe to those who care for us and must be factored into the choices we make. He clearly could have had the experience he was after, and survived, with a little better planning. He was under informed (a degree of reckless) considering the gravity of his venture, but not the suicidal nut-job that my "Alaskan" friends think. Your film helps show that side and also counters the Hollywood glorification of his story. Not a tipping of the opinion scale, but a perfect balance. Well done.
I just wanted to tell you I really enjoyed your film The Call of the Wild. I've always loved the story of Chris and his adventures. I know that in death he has been immortalized, probably against his wishes but we'll never know. I read the book for the 1st time this year, being 28 and yearning to get out of my 9 to 5 job the book struck a chord deep within me. I decided to drive down to a remote stretch of beach along the cape. Passing through Truro I take a turn onto an unmarked street, drive another few miles, and I'm at the beach. I park my car and set out on foot traveling a few miles down the beach, not a person in sight. That night I thought a lot about being alone, about how Chris felt. That book changed my life, as well as your movie. I liked seeing Chris as you portrayed him....a real life person. Not a saint, movie star, or a revolutionary. Sean Penn's movie was way way way way too Hollywood, Chris would a hated it. That I do know. Many Thanks.
I can write with certainty that this is the first time I've contacted someone I did not know in response to a film/book/op ed piece, etc.
I'll keep this relatively short - I thoroughly enjoyed The Call of the Wild. Born in 1968, I took off for Europe after four years of college, and after many years...well, you know the rest of the story. I became fascinated with McCandless after Krakauer's book came out a decade or so ago (at about the time I came back to the States). While on certain levels I've always respected and readily identified with McCandless, I ultimately viewed him in a far less romantic light than did many of my friends who were familiar with his journey. I simply did not understand how someone with such a dogged determination to seek out the secrets of himself and learn more about the world unknown to him could do so in such a spectacularly nearsighted manner. Nor could I abide McCandless's glaring lack of common sense or preparation, which at times came across so absolute that it seemed almost deliberate. Perhaps it was for this reason I found Krakauer's version, while entertaining to read, less than satisfying. McCandless's ordeal continued to haunt me over the years and I spent a decent amount of time in search of answers to the core issues which I felt Into the Wild failed to address (for reasons I could not always pinpoint, nor, at times, rightly justify). When I heard Penn was making his film, I expected it to approach the story with little or no circumspection (and while I found the movie surprisingly enjoyable, I left it unfulfilled).
Your work, however, did the trick. While it admittedly overlaps a period in which I've finally grown weary of trying to figure out the McCandless mentality, The Call of the Wild went a long way in helping me reconcile the fact that I should always remain focused on what inspired McCandless to venture into the woods, so to speak, rather than why he failed to make it out (as you noted at the conclusion). Thanks for putting the film together.
First of all, I'd like to say that your documentary was amazing. I recently purchased it from your website, and have already watched it three times. Why Chris didn't cross the Tek to return to Healy has always puzzled me. Why he didn't start some sort of bonfire always puzzled me as well. I originally read the book around 2000, and it has haunted me ever since.
Thanks again for making the documentary.
Really liked your movie -- such a modern documentary. As an empathizer of the McCandless story -- and somebody between Baby Boom and Gen X -- the story has long resonated with me. Your treatment of it was great. Really cool. Did you show it at the Banff Mountain Film Festival? It would be a good venue, don't you think? Your treatment is a satisfying, gritty and very personal complement to Sean Penn's movie (which I would like to hear your take on).
I am now wishing that I had met with you in MA, not to be in your movie but
I received my DVDs yesterday and already had a chance to check out "Call of the Wild"!
The film, your story and Chris's story really made me stop and reflect on my own journey...and, how it its own way it relates to your film.
I'm a bit younger than you, I was born in 1974. Graduated high school in 1993 and from Berklee College of Music in 1998.
But I too, had that "call of the wild". Chris went to Alaska among other places, you went to Africa among other places and I went to the poorest place in the continental United States I could find. Shannon County South Dakota, part of the Pine Ridge Reservation and home of the Oglala Lakota people. This was my adventure. I lived, worked and taught music for 2 years as a stranger in a strange land.
Then I moved to San Antonio de Escazu in Costa Rica, Phoenix, Arizona, New York City and found myself right back where I started in Morris County New Jersey.
When I reflect on my time on the Reservation I seldom think of what fun I had as apposed to very intense, life-changing experiences. It was the adventure I sought, to step outsides the bounds of pragmatism.
But, unlike Chris, you and I, and I am sure many others, survived. We have completed our Joseph Campbell "Hero's Journey" and come full circle. So,now what?
I saw that you were a political science major. I too have always been a political activist and decided in 2006 to stop standing outside city hall holding a sign and try to work from the inside.
Alas, I ran as a Democrat for my District 26 in the New Jersey State Legislature in 2007. My District is a "safe" Republican District, and, I lost. But I did
I will be running again in 2009.
I sometimes wonder what Chris would be doing now had he lived and all we would not have done if we (you and I) had not made it past our adventures at 24.
The opening strains of "Hunger Strike" gave me chills as I, as a young musician, used to perform that song on the beach at the Jersey Shore in 1992 dreaming of the day I would/could "break out" and do something great with my life.
In short, I loved the film. It inspires me.
I have only begun the Dr Seuss film but am already sucked in.
Don't ever think your work is done in vain.
Thank you for quoting Tennyson, my idol RFK always used the same quote.
I often think of W.E. Henley who said "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."
Dear Mr Lamothe,
Having received today the DVD of your film 'The Call of the Wild', which I ordered a mere week ago via PayPal, I am taking the liberty of writing you a brief note for two reasons.
First, I want to thank you for your incredibly swift service; never before have I ordered something on-line from the USA and have it arrive so promptly. For this I am most grateful.
Second, and more importantly, I want to congratulate you on your film. I cleared my afternoon to watch it and am very glad I did: It's a terrific piece of work, all the more impressive for having been made by yourself alone. It deserves a wider audience.
I don't know if you are aware of this, but there is an annual festival of international documentary films called Visions du Reel ('Visions of the Real') in Nyon, not far from where I live in Switzerland. The latest festival starts in a few weeks, but perhaps you may wish to look into the possibility of getting a screening next year.
Good luck, and again, my congratulations on an engrossing study of McCandless.
My name is Tad and I'm a 19 y/o student at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. About an hour or so ago I got out of watching your documentary, The Call of the Wild, here on campus. I was in the front row, right in front of the projector if you wish to put a face to me but that does not really matter. I did not get a chance to talk to you after the film since you looked very busy, but I would like to say simply thank you. You have made a very unique film. I have long since been interested in the McCandless story, and it is one of the main reasons I came to this state for college. I'm orginally not from around here. I did see the Penn film about oh...a month or so ago and although I did like it, found your film to grasp my attention more. The Penn film was well put together and all, but a bit too romantic and apparently a bit false, as you point out with the potato seeds. That is no reason to fault them, facts must be messed up to support a good story for major film makers. But you did a great job sir. I like how you completely did not pay any attention to the relationship between Chris and his family, keeping it as a road story as you say. I enjoy that. They were about to throw that down your neck the stuff about the parents and how sad it was he left them in the Penn movie and everyone else I talk to about the book seems that way too. (Into the Wild was the first book that fully grabbed my attention back in high school.) I think yours was a much more drastic and necessary course. Best of luck to you, your film and your life.
I saw your film in San Francisco last Sunday. Great film. You really have a natural touch. I loved your sense of humor and insight to Christopher's struggle. I hope a major distributor inks a deal with you and gets it out into the mainstream. Good luck!
I got the film and enjoyed it immensely. Wonderful work! I think the point you made is a fascinating one: really, what got him out there is 100% more important than how/why he died.
Your documentary was awesome. I really felt that you were making the movie for yourself and not to impress anybody. The shots during your drive to Alaska were amazing; it was nice to be able to rattle off the names of the things you were shooting. My favourite part of the Alaska highway is in Kluane National Park when you turn into a huge stretch across the valley and it looks as if you are driving straight into the huge mountain in front of you. I watched the movie with 2 kids I worked with in Alaska who go to my school, and they all enjoyed it too. Neither of them had read the book but they had seen Sean Penn's movie. They both enjoyed it. I think it's very interesting to look beyond what both Sean Penn and the book researched for the movie. Too bad they seem so negligent people when it comes to providing what they know to the public.
Just a quick note of thanks.
In 2002 I thru hiked the Appalachian trail. During that 6 month journey I discovered the book Into the Wild. It fascinated me not only because it was an intriguing story with so many unanswered questions, but I also strongly identified with McCandless as I was on an adventure of my own that wasn't too dissimilar. Also as you have also indicated, I too born in the late 60's and for whatever reason I think we tend to identify more strongly with our peer group. The story has stayed with me and I was eagerly awaiting the Penn film and was happy that it was in the hands of people that would do the story justice. I never made it to the theaters, but I couldn't wait any longer and had the HD DVD shipped and watched it last night. I certainly wasn't expecting the reaction that developed as I watched.
Its amazing that with all that talk of wanting to stay true to the story and even making a point during the movie about the importance of truth to McCandless, that Penn would take so many liberties associated with the typical hollywood retelling of a real story. As I watched the scene where McCandless buys a Kayak my heart just sank. I couldn't believe it. This was the exact type of bullshit that I think McCandless loathed. Why dress the story up? If I remember correctly he went down the Colorado in a beat up canoe. Something that would have been more interesting to watch anyways. Then they had him working at a Burger King instead of a McDonalds, and I could only shake my head at how the story was being whored out. Nice that they also managed to get the big BK logo on Chris's last paycheck. So much for art.
Well I woke this morning wanting to do some research on Chris's life and ran across your site. I know you had apprehensions about going forward with your project alongside the Penn production. But in hindsight it must look like destiny to have made what I am hoping is an accurate portrayal to come out alongside what turned out to be nothing more than Hollywood bullshit. All these years I assumed that he had no map, no identification, or money. Man I am glad you made your documentary. It really sheds light and dispels a few theories I have held onto for years. I haven't seen it yet, but from what I am reading on your site. Good show.
Boy do I look at Penn and Krakauer in a new light. They wave the Supertramp flag and profess such strong identification with him, and then prove to be part of the bullshit stew McCandless seemed to loathe. Why can't Krakauer just admit he was wrong about the seeds? It seems like a ludicrous theory to me now. And I used to think Penn was one of the good guys. Now when I see him in interviews sitting there with those droopy eyes, cigarette smoke billowing around him, and talking in that droned out "I'm too fucking cool to speak normally" voice I can only think…what a pretentious wanker.
[follow up: Just finished your movie and wanted to provide you with some feedback. First off, I am not an expert on filmmaking but am an avid movie fan that can comfortably discuss current films, documentaries, as well as a lot of stuff from decades ago. Let me say I feel you are a talented filmmaker that did some things I thought were really brilliant. One of the things I really loved was the montage you did of Generation X. Born in 1969, and as I discussed with you in a previous email, I agree that McCandless being from our generation really is a strong link to the story as well as the spirit of his adventures. Watching your movie and seeing the photos of Chris with the animals he hunted and the progression of Chris's weight loss, I think you clearly hit the nail on the head, and it is quite clear that he starved to death. He was expending to much energy getting game that provided too little meat with his limited skinning and preserving skills. It may work for 30 days on a reality show but its not gonna work for 113.
One last note. You could not have ended your movie with a more perfect reading. The young man reading it was clearly a modern day McCandless and the choice of material was perfect. After hearing those words, it became quite clear to me why Chris went into the wild. I honestly wasn't expecting as much as you provided. Great job! Paul]
Thank you for investigating what really happened to Chris versus what was shown in the movie by Sean Penn. I'm a fairly intelligent person, but my emotions were tugged all over the place watching Into the Wild last night. I'm so grateful you've made the truth about Chris' death available to those of us who were manipulated by false information that was presented to us as true.
Hey Ron, after reading into the Wild for the first time less then a month ago i because very enamored with this story. I am currently 27, just recently married and i think it touched my core as it did so many others, yourself included. I purchased your movie the second i found out about it. I am a huge fan of documentaries although my brilliant film career ended in high school.
Anyways i wanted to write you this and compliment you on the dvd me and my wife enjoyed (more then the penn movie which i was very disappointed in (granted i had very high expectations).
Just wanted to drop a line, thanks for your hard work, hope the movie is making you some money even though it is obviously not why you did it.
I just finished your documentary. Truly great work.
Your camera work was fantastic and I think you really captured the real? story and purpose behind McCandless. I think you summed it up fantastically with your narrative that the greater meaning of Chris's journey is what lives on; the latter, (why he walked in) is timeless and profound; it is the seeker who matters most. Thank you.
Eirin Strickland here, we met today at the anchorage musuem. I don't know how much of this fan/junk mail you have coming in so i'll keep it pretty brief. As I mentioned I recently completed work on a documentary of my own, Ice Crystals, about meth addiction in Alaska. Basically I just wanted to commend you on the film, technically it's as complex as anything hollywood has to offer and the storytelling goes beyond that, i love how it is able to appeal to the viewer on a personal level while likewise encompassing an entire generation. It also, naturally, sheds new light on McCandless' story, which is particularly engaging for anyone whose ever been interested in following his footsteps into the unknown. I read Krakauer's book this summer and very nearly didn't end up making a film at all, my first instinct was to drive south as far as I could and then set off across south america. Each to his own eh? But that was my calling until I began shooting. It's amazing the power a character like Chris can conduct even posthumously... that sort of idealism, the "why he went into the wild" beauty of it, even balanced with how unprepared he may have been, will I think always be relevant to some people.
Anyways, I'll be sending a copy of Ice Crystals along shortly, let me know what you think of it and keep up the good work!
I really enjoyed The Call of the Wild. I once imagined following the trail that you did. Glad you did and happy that you shared it.
Recently (December 20) I went to see Into The Wild. I had read the book a few years ago. After seeing the movie I did a search on Chris McCandless' name and found your web site. I immediately ordered your film, it arrived December 31 and I viewed it yesterday. I thought your film was very well made and presented some good observances on Chris and his life. I tend to agree with your college friend who did not buy into gen X being lost souls. I turn 50 in 4 weeks and remember guys my age after high school or college being lost souls and with a 24 year old son of my own I see similar tendencies in today's youth. I personally fell into the traditional model of college, grad school (actually law school for me), work hard, build a career, marriage (lasted 20 years; remarried for 6 years now); and all of the traditional monetary and life trappings. Happy, yes. But everyone seems to have this longing to explore, make changes. If it happens at age 40 society calls it a mid life crisis. Most people at some point in their life question who they are, where they are going, is this all there is to life. I have been having many of those thoughts now as I approach 50. The way I see it with Chris he just had those longings at age 22 and decided to not follow the traditional life path that society and his parents expected him to follow. Most of us have those thoughts, at some point in life we may do something out of the ordinary, but few take it to an extreme. I tend to laugh at the Alaskans who rant about Chris trying to be a survivalist/outdoorsman and failing miserably. I think that was the last thing he had in mind and is not the point of Chris' life. To me he just decided to not follow the path society deems normal for all of us. Couple that with obvious relationship problems with his parents and his life makes sense. When reading the book and then seeing the movie I came away thinking that there was a strong failed father/son or parent/child issue that drove some of his actions; at the conclusion of the book and the movie I found myself crying (same reaction every time I watch Field of Dreams - to me it is not a baseball movie at all but a life movie - with a strong father/son relationship theme).
Thanks for making a good film that helps those of us who are interested in this fascinating story gain a broader perspective. In the end only Chris knows why he decided to embark on his two year journey and what really happened in Alaska. Hopefully anyone who reads the book, views Sean Penn's film or your film, or comes across his life story will enjoy what they read and see, reflect on their own life, be happy for what they have in life but never stop longing for future possibilities. Chris was a dreamer, that much is clear. Life would be boring without the dreamers and explorers.
Take care and keep up the excellent filmmaking.
This year I showed Ron Lamothe's documentary film The Call of the Wild as a companion piece to Krakauer's book in my ninth grade English classes, and I immediately saw benefits in how well students were able to connect with Chris McCandless as a person and relate to his experiences. Lamothe's first-hand reporting from distant landscapes brought unfamiliar territories into focus for them. His many interviews, with people who knew McCandless or who were familiar enough with his story to hold strong opinions about him, led my students to see Alexander Supertramp as a real human being and not just a character in a book. Lamothe helped Chris become real to my students by traveling in his shoes for them, and as a result they were less likely to dismiss him as weird or odd, and more likely to find a piece of themselves in him.
At the end of their reading and viewing this year, I asked students to take a position on Chris McCandless in a formal paper. Some saw him as an inspiration while others argued he was a fool, but it was noteworthy to me that people on both sides referred back to Lamothe's film for support of their judgments. The Call of the Wild provides a wealth of vivid images, authentic voices, and balanced insights into a young man's tragic story. I'd recommend it to any teacher who hopes to connect this narrative of extreme experience with the reality that students know and understand.
My family and I watched your film, Call of the Wild, Saturday night in Anchorage. We talked with you afterwards, briefly. Let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed your film, and thought that you did a great job.
The reason that I am writing is because I feel that you value comments from Alaskans, who can impart a local perspective unavailable elsewhere.
It has taken years to get accustomed to Alaska, and you cannot learn this in one summer, or two, or even several. You need years of experience, meeting people, seeing what they do, what they are capable of, and then you realize the vast chasm between life in the lower 48 and life here. Certainly not for everyone.
In the end, I totally agree with your summation of Chris's experience... it is far more poignant to examine and reflect upon the reasons he walked into the wild, than to speculate on whether he could have walked out or exactly why he didn't make it. I, too, saw my foolish self in him, and saw that where I could have died doing the dumb things I did, I didn't by luck and circumstance. Your film was a fascinating journey into Chris's oydssey, and very moving. I look forward to your next project....
I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the film. It was excellent, and a must-have for anyone interested in McCandless and his story. I love that you really investigated the man behind the mythos, where he grew up, track coaches and the rest of it. Very well done. I envy you that you were able to do that journey in its entirety. I hate to admit it, but as a woman the hitchhiking part is a little out of the question from a safety standpoint, but damn I wish I was able to do it.
Are you planning on visiting the bus again? Has making this film put the voice in the back of your mind to rest? If you do head back to the bus, can I go with you! I am serious. I really want to do some paintings one day. I do hope they leave it where it is....that would be the ultimate irony if it was removed and turned into a profit-making machine. Chris would cringe I'm sure. Thank-you so much for making the film though. I will watch it again very soon. Your friend who hiked around Lake Mead with you was very intelligent and insightful. I enjoyed listening to him.
I am reading Walden now. It is a masterpiece and has been gathering dust on my shelves for years until I finally decided to read it recently in light of the impact it made on Chris.
I spoke to You after Your WORLD CLASS film last night....
As I said - With having a place off Stampede Road, Jon Nierenberg as one of my BESTEST friends, a trip to "The Bus" myself with Jon via dog team, driving over the Tek River twice a day for the past 14 season as a Denali Park Shuttle Bus Driver, etc.., I have the ULTIMATE respect for Your passion for AUTHENTICITY and the PERSEVERANCE behind it.
Apologies if I put You on the spot with my "What do You think would have been happened afterwards had You drowned crossing the Tek?". It was certainly not intended to embarrass You. And You nailed it, which I share daily on my bus narration - "Many people in Alaska don't get some of the second and third chances I have been graced with after using poor judgement. Alaska is a STUNNINGLY Beautiful place, but She is also VERY unforgiving!"
THANK YOU!!!! THANK YOU!!!! THANK YOU!!!!! for the call-in program on KNBA (Loved it!!!), coming to Alaska, and sharing Your Time, Talents, and Treasures with Us.
Very good film. You did your homework!
Thanks for getting it here so quickly. I saw "Into the Wild" on Thursday, ordered your film after a Google search late that night, and Wednesday night I watched it. I, of course, was aware of the story as it unfolded in the newspapers here, read the Outside article and bought the book when it came out in paperback.
I did something close to what Chris tried to do when I was 24. I think the reason I was more successful is that I was willing to compromise and listen to the lessons of others. But I too could have easily died - who doesn't think they're immortal at 24?
Rick Briggs (57)
Ron---I saw your movie a week ago in St. Louis and loved it. Ever since seeing the Into the Wild movie earlier this year and then reading the book I couldn't stop thinking about the subject, but more strangely couldn't figure out why I was so interested in it. It was good to know that I was not alone, and the movie's unique perspective helped understand that better. I thought that your documentary was going to be another version of the same story, and I did find your theories interesting, but was more affected by the personal style. (By the way, I talked to you after the movie briefly and asked you the unexpectedly uncomfortable question about the "relationship" in Carthage that you suggested in the movie---I was intrigued by your response, but had wondered if there was something else there even before then.) Good luck with your future movies.
I just wanted to thank you for such a wonderful documentary about Chris McCandless. I read the book and then saw Penn's movie and then I read the book again. I'm thankful to have found your movie!
Just wanted to let you know that I saw Call of the Wild at the Bradford IFF in the UK last weekend and found it thoroughly engrossing. Can't find, for some reason, any mention of the film on the imdb - shame on them!
I saw Sean Penn's movie not that long ago and some things in the story just didn't add up so I did some research of my own on the topic/story and found quite a few sites etc...with some of the same & some conflicting information & accounts. While doing this I came across your story/site and I can't tell you how great it is that you went to such great lengths to prove Hollywood and them wrong, good for you. The entire story of Chris's travels is very intriguing indeed and I can see how it sat in the back of you mind before finally pursuing it and I am glad you did. Not to mention how difficult it must have been for you when you found out Sean & Jon Krakauer were going ahead with the motion picture that you had been set on doing yourself and the fact that you went ahead with it anyway speaks volumes on the type of individual you must be.
I can't wait to see the documentary as I know it will enlighten me to actually see the sites Chris went to on his journey through your eyes and with your factual/realistic non-Hollywood fictional story telling point of view. Anyway good luck to you on your future endeavors/encounters.
[follow up: Hi Ron, I did have a chance to watch your documentary and it is fantastic to say the least. I don't have a lot of extra time right now to write you a review worthy of what your film deserves as it put the mostly fictional movie by Sean Penn to shame. I borrowed it to my mother-in-law and a few friends and they couldn't stop raving about it. Have a great day. Bye for now, Casey]
I received your documentary yesterday and enjoyed it very much. My neighbor across the street from me when I was a kid was Timothy Treadwell aka 'Grizzlyman' and I'm sure you're familiar with the documentary...I remember when Timmy left just like Chris and disappeared to California and then to Alaska. His parents didn't hear from him for years. He too took on a different personality. Changed his accent to Australian and his last name from Dexter to Treadwell.
A very good follow up to seeing "Into the Wild" . Generally facts have little to do with making a commercial Hollywood movie. Your film helped fill in many questions I had in the Penn film. How could Superman die? It is a shame he could not met a trapper, worked with him for one season and learned some true skills. All meat diet and you will starve to death even in Boston. Good story of the "American Spirit".
I had not even heard of this fellow till about 2 weeks ago, when some folks on a forum I watch mentioned the commercial film then told about yours. You did not waste your time. I travel alone on a motorcycle and understand to a great way why he just had to go see, and give it try. The poor people who travel the beaten paths with their posses, crews and group with chase trailers, miss a real experience.
Congratulations on your documentary, I really enjoyed watching it. I'm not a big reader of different philosophers, but Chris McCandless reminds me of Nietzsche's stories. Not that I understand Nietzsche's writing, but I do remember his general thoughts on society teaching what is good and what is evil, and how solitude allows one to move beyond these "false truths", beyond good and evil....gain some perspective on what truly matters to each individual, a perspective of life outside of what the herd believes. Nietzsche also seemed to
Nietzsche and McCandless may have had opposite opinions on whether or not God exists, but they seemed to have similar opinions on how to separate the wheat from the chaff in life.
It was wonderful you were able to take the story a step further...his wallet, his possible shoulder injury, Occams razor/body mass ratio. I also enjoyed your analysis of his last 2 photos, I think you're spot on.
I just loved it.
What some times can be disappointing is to see the characters in the movie compared to the real ones on the documentary. Extraordinary the interview with the ex-college friend, actual lawyer. Someone that has a total different view of what "Alex" represented. Amazing discovery at the end with all that secret money and several ID's. What was that? Did he fool us all? I can understand the money, maybe some leftover from a old job, but what about the ID's?
Just for the record, I watched twice so far and the line is growing behind me.
Dear Mr. Lamothe,
I want to thank you for making your movie The Call of the Wild. It gave me new perspective into the McCandless adventure and inspiration. I don't know why but the story of Chris McCandless has intrigued and mystified me. I am a 39 year old woman, married with two children, a house, a cat and a dog. The thought of the Great Alaskan Adventure makes me think that someday, I, too, could take such an adventure to find myself and what I am. Of course, I'm a woman, wife, mom, chauffeur, cheerleader, cook, maid, and all those other things that stay-at-home mom's typically are. But I've completely lost myself into that role. I wasn't able to find myself before I started on the life I now lead.
I read "Into the Wild" by John Krakauer and then watched the movie before I found yours. But they both provide me with such a longing to "escape" for just a little while and figure things out. Thank you for your creativity and distribution of your film. It has truly touched me.
After seeing Into The Wild and becoming fascinated with McCandless' story, I ran across the link to your documentary on Wikipedia. Seeing that it is not available on Netflix, I spent the $30 to obtain it. I'm so glad that I did. Money well spent. You should be immensely proud of your work. My husband, Budd, and I watched it last night and talked at length about what a great job you did, neither demonizing nor lionizing McCandless, and doing your research, getting the facts straight. We enjoyed the Penn film when we watched it, but felt misled by the "facts" that were presented in his film (and in Krakauer's book), and disappointed in the barriers he and his crew put up for you while you were truly trying to tell the truth about what happened.
I blogged a review of your film this morning and a "compare-contrast" - it's at www.jazzzytina.com.
I think your film and your website are must-views for people who are interested in the Christopher McCandless story, and I thank you and commend you.
I just discovered your low budget, low profile doc of Chris McCandless. In fact, I am shocked that I had not heard of it before now. Also because I live in Santa Fe, which is a small town that enjoys and supports independent films.
I was shocked to see discrepancies in Krakauer's account. Although I know he has debated other people online about differing aspects of his stories regarding the Mt. Everest tragedy, I always assumed he was a guy who got the facts, as he knew them, straight. Not someone who'd disregard a fact. Like a wallet, for one. Or a map. It leaves me feeling very frustrated. And I wonder what the family thinks of it all?
I went to Alaska in my 20's. Hitched up and back from Anchorage to Haines to catch the ferry back to Seattle. Spent a few weeks in the interior, on a field class studying geology and geomorphology with a professor from Middlebury college and a guy from Colorado who had walked across the Brooks Range. ('Brooks Range Passage - David Cooper')
I returned 6 years later, deckhanding on salmon and halibut boats. Did that for 6 years. And a number of other crazy things....I never did hear about McCandless, I don't think, until some years later. Except to catch a short newspaper article and to just assume that 'some guy' must've 'walked into the woods and died'. And I didn't remember his name, but I did remember the feeling of awe, and almost envy, that he'd walked into the bush, and of tragedy, that he died alone and probably miserably.
Sometimes I still feel that urge to just walk off like that. That pull. I think maybe some of us are born with it, and some never have a twinge.
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you THANK YOU for providing another look at this story, a few more facts, a willingness to look into the subject further, to explore, to ask questions and to bring your camera, your perspective, your mind and your heart.
Wishing you all the best,
I just wanted to say thanks for really digging up the facts about chris. i was kinda disappointed after viewing the "Into the Wild" sean penn film. i already knew that the plants turned out negative after testing for poisons and was curious if penn would put that in his film. he didn't. i just don't understand why krakauer would omit any of this knowledge from his book? i just don't get it. i loved your version of the truth in your film so much more than the hollywood release. i have been an addict to the truth about chris mccandless after i first read the book. reason being back in 1994, maybe 1995, one of our dearest friends ended up dead somewhere in alaska. he wasn't as intelligent as chris but had that same drive. he took to the rails and thumbed rides as well. he ended up in alaska, where i don't know. his brothers went out there to find him is what i've heard after hearing their little brother was causing some kind of scene over a McDonald's or Wendy's being built on the main land. the family hadn't heard from him for a long time and feared him dead. so his older brothers went to alaska to find him. and they did. they found him frozen in some creek up there half eaten by the wildlife. i attended the funeral back in 94 or 95. i don't exactly recall the year as it was long ago. everyone i spoke to back then said that the boy was causing too much of a stir on the job sites where the aforementioned fast food restaurants were being built, going as far as vandalizing the machine's instrument panels on the back hoes and end loaders. i was wondering if you ever came across this young man's name or story during your quest to tell the truth about chris's journey. my best friend who died in alaska is Dan(daniel) Theodore. the brothers who went to find him up there are Greg and Dean Theodore. all of us grew up in Orland Park, Illinois. we all attended Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, IL. thanks again for the real truth about chris.
We enjoyed your documentary and website very much, it was excellent preparation for our own trip to the Stampede trail while up there on June 4th. Spent a lot of time talking to Jon Nierenberg at EarthSong Lodge, who says hi! Shame he did not make it into the flick. The Forsberg part is phenomenal. We drove exactly as far as you showed behind Forsberg in the movie. Hope to make it out to Sushana Bus one day with Jon N and sled dogs.
Thanx for doing what you did- it changed our lives !
Gregg Pokrywka (and 15 yr old Josh)
I received the DVD today and it was awesome! I really enjoyed your take on the McCandless story, and I will always find Chris to be an inspiration. My favorite part of your documentary was the account of your own crossing of the Tek. I was totally caught up in the despair you felt when your video camera got wet, and then the joy and relief you felt when it began to work.
I think if Chris could somehow see your representation of his story he would prefer it greatly to the Hollywoodized Penn account. You did a great job of keeping the telling of his journey in perspective and unbiased, especially by including thoughts of people who don't "get it" and think that he was a fool. Thanks for making the DVD available, and the sacrifices you made to create it!
Thanks again and best regards,
Hi Ron: My name is Rod Hughey and I live in Healy. Steve Tolley is one of my best friends and I saw your documentary through him. I wanted to tell you that I thought you did a great job on that project.
I moved to Alaska in April 2001 from Flint, Michigan to escape the spiraling life I had created for myself there by the time I had reached the age of 28. At my layover in Minneapolis on the trip here, I purchased Into the Wild and read it in the plane and over my first 2 days in Alaska, while hostelling in Anchorage before my trip to Denali to start a summer job there. The notion that I was so close and yet so far from the bus has always intrigued me. I have to say that I had the glamorized view of Chris at first and over the years (I have been in Healy virtually since I got here, save a one year stint in Anchorage) I have changed my views of what he represents to me a couple times, as Alaska and 8 years of aging taught me what they expect of me. I don't subscribe to the Hero or the Foolish bandwagons, and have simply accepted that what happened ended in tragedy for those who could have been beneficiaries of what his life may have contributed.
After eight years, I finally took a snow machine trip to the bus two weeks ago and saw the journals of former visitors, Steve's bed and barrel stove, and your entry on the emergency door. I took a moment to place my own name on the ceiling and in the journals. I simply stated that I had come to the bus, and was leaving to return into the civilization, if Healy can really be called that. As I wrote, I pondered how easy it was for me to stop at my Eight Mile Lake property to appreciate what my hard work here has rewarded me with and to make a simple day trip from there to the bus and to return home safely to enjoy the late-winter warmth and safety of the cabin I built myself and now call home, and how dynamic the differences were between my experience and the experience of Chris'.
I don't know how often people take the time to reflect on such things, or what a difference such reflection ultimately makes to the overall outcome of my own life, but I can say that although your film does not garner the box office numbers or generate the number of web-based forum discussions prompted by the exposure of the movie, I thought your efforts should be applauded due to the objectivity you take in making a case study of the events that led to this young man's tragic end. Thanks and kudos to you and to your family for the sacrifices you've made to bring a little clarity to an event that has been exploited by Krakauer and Penn for their own personal and professional gain. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
Dear Mr. Lamothe,
I purchased your documentary some months ago and have watched it time and time again. I find Christopher McCandless haunting. As many others have written, I can strongly identify with him--both his points of view and his choices. I now live in my family home, where I grew up, just a few miles away from the McCandless house in Annandale. If not for a change in school boundaries, I could have gone to Woodson. There are other similarities, similarities in family dynamics and tensions and so on, enough that I could have easily been another young man, dying in the wilderness somewhere. It's an odd sort of mirror for me to look into from the vantage point of middle age. I like the honesty of your film. While I enjoyed Mr. Krakauer's book and liked the movie version, I quite prefer your storytelling. From my perspective, your voice resonates with truth, akin to the truth Christopher McCandless himself may have spoken about his journey, had he lived. Whether he was an impetuous young man, impulsively following a vision without also taking time to protect his life or whether he was an intrepid, larger-than-life adventurer similar to figures such as John Muir, Christopher McCandless was a person that continues to impact people, many years after his death. How many of us ordinary folk will be able to leave such a mark? Some weekends, as I drive around Annandale on errands, I steer down the street where he lived and wonder "what if?".
I have just watched your film tracing the journey of Chris McCandless. I just wanted to let you know I found it a wonderful documentary and very sensitively written and produced. I have been fascinated by Chris's story since I first came to hear of it, after Sean Penn's Film which in every respect was much inferior to your production despite the big Hollywood budget no doubt.
What resonated most was your perspective on generation X. I too am the same age and during the time of Chris's adventure was also having my own adventure (away from my home country of Ireland). Anyhow, thanks for the wonderful film and all the best in the future with your projects.
I wanted to say thank you for a great documentary, which added much needed clarification to the story of Christopher McCandless' untimely death in the great state of Alaska, America's last true frontier. I have watched the movie twice in the past 2 weeks and have also watched your documentary twice during this same period of time. While there may be no evidence of any disorders that Chris may have been experiencing, I want to believe that he suffered from a milder form of Bipolar Disorder because of the times when he truly enjoyed being around people but then the times when he wanted to be alone by himself and nature. This doesn't mean that everyone who wants to be in the middle of nature has a disorder of any kind, it does remind me of the suffering my family goes through because of this exact disorder...From the stories of his times in the desert, it appears he was a survivor because the desert environment can take a person just as fast as one in the middle of the Alaskan wilds...I read so many people bashing him for so many things and really being disrespectful of someone who has passed on, and for those people I feel pity.
Ron, I work for Vermont Public Television and we ran this last night on our air. I watched the film at home with our family and we absolutely loved it. I enjoyed that the film was kind of a film about making a film. The process was as much a part of it for the viewer as the end result.
The revelations about the lack of toxicity in the wild Indian potato, the wallet, money and ID in the back pack, the potential ransacking of the cabins...all of this really impacted me greatly. These are elements that the Penn film lacked.
Many PBS viewers are familiar with Dick Proenneke and the time he spent at Twin Lakes in Alaska as seen on Alone in the Wilderness and I am stunned by the dichotomy between the two approaches these two men took. Both wanted to challenge themselves in extreme conditions. Both weren't comfortable with day to day society. One was idealic and one was realistic. One died within 3 months and one lived there for 30 years.
Congrats on really lending the first real insight into the death of Chris McCandless since the publication of the book. Well done.
Brennan J. Neill
Ron, Believe it or not, I had never heard of Chris McCandless until just last week. I was channel surfing on the TV, and started watching your Call of the Wild documentary on NH public television. I became absorbed in the story from your film. Since then, I've googled, youtubed, and read up on the large body of blog and other internet info available about this young man who died 17 years ago. I'm neither a traveler nor outdoorsy type, but the story has struck a chord. I've since watched the Penn film, and have ordered the Krakauer book.
I'm amazed at how many people have been touched by this story. People have trekked out to the bus, or plan to. There are photo collages on the internet, debates about what to do about the bus, and countless comments from folks about it in cyberspace. It does seem to be the stuff of myths. Maybe this email to you is my own sense of connecting to the story. But I just wanted to say thanks to for making your film. Well done. Anyway, for what it's worth, you proved that a great film doesn't necessitate hollywood's big budget.
Hi Ron. I just caught your film on NHPTV channel 11 this past Thursday and want to pay you a compliment for a job well done.
A valid point was made by the scientist who tested the toxicity of the plants McCandless was believed to have eaten. His point was that if one is to tell a story like this, at least be thorough enough to follow through and tell the whole story. I'm very pleased that somebody (you) did. That fact left me with more questions now than I have answers, but at least I feel like I haven't been deprived of any facts. Krakauer wrote a pretty good book, but it would have been great to know the story beyond his theory.
I also found it disappointing that his wallet and identification was found in his backpack. This, to me, put a slight crack in his armor of Tolstoyan asceticism because he had bragged to others and wrote often of trashing all things material. On the other hand, you can't blame him for having an emergency plan. The whole story is rife with dichotomy, no? Thank you very much for bringing those 2 major items to light. They definitely changed my view of the whole tale.
I also loved the fact that you were objective (for the most part) and just relayed the facts documentary-style. It came through many times that you admire McCandless, but that is your right - you're the filmmaker after all. I really don't find him right or wrong. Who's to judge him for following his heart and actually living out his dream? I don't think there's any right or wrong there. His zeal combined with a lack of experience in the bush made for a tragic end, but you have to admire the kid for making it 100+ days in Alaska. Thank you also for pushing through Sean Penn, etc. That was a funny story about the producers phoning you to test your will. Congrats on sticking to it, you made a great film!!
I just wanted to say how much I thoroughly enjoyed--and learned from--"Call of the Wild" last night after its airing on public TV. What a remarkable, much-appreciated effort on your part!
When "Into the Wild" entered the theaters a couple years ago, I went to see it on its second day of showing, and liked it a lot. But there's something about your doc that made the Chris McCandless story come out so much stronger, so much more meaningful. And the lighter moments to offset the gravity of the subject material were well done and well-placed. The still shot of Sean Penn's notorious pre-conniption-fit glare was laugh-out-loud priceless.
In contrast, the piecing-together of Chris's final days of despair, with shots of his journal showing both his decreasing use of ink and his decreasing level of hope, was compelling and heartbreaking, to say the least. Anyway, let me just say Thank You for a film that was a pleasure and an inspiration to view.
Last night I caught only a portion of your documentary on television. I started in on it when you were trying to get some information from people who knew Chris in Carthage, but were bound by contract by the film production. It was late, but I stayed up in serious curiosity and inquiry about this story. The kind of curiosity that is like when you cannot put down a good book.
I have to say I have never heard of Chris and his story - must have been under a rock at the time. I loved your documentary, I love your narration and the type of filming and still photos. That kind of storytelling through the lens peaks my senses. I will be buying the book right away, and having seen your film, I know now what to be the truth and not what will be told incompletely in the book about his death. Many people can relate to Chris' journey, his needs, his love, his want for truth. You represented him well, all the best to you and your own crew. Just wanted to say you opened a new door for me, and I look forward to learning more.
Terra Incognita Films:
I've never contacted a company like this before, but was so moved by your great documentary re Chris McCandless, The Call of the Wild, I felt compelled to let you know. I'm just a random person that was getting ready to turn my T.V. off and go to bed when you film came on (my local PBS station), so I thought I'd watch it for a little bit, but ended up watching it in its entirety. It's really done well and I hope you won/win some kind of award for your thought provoking and moving film that I'll be thinking about it for a long time.
A few weeks ago I saw your film on PBS and I was blown away. I too have always had an unexplainable pull to Christopher McCandless. As a new college student myself, I find his story very relatable and I feel like I understand, to a small extent, why he would do what he did. I did truly enjoy the Hollywood film Into the Wild, but it was just that, a Hollywood film. The movie's (Into the Wild) romantic approach to Chris had me idealizing him where your film was extremely more realistic. Your clean cut and honest take to the story was inspiring. I cannot thank you enough for this great new perspective your film has given me.
Ron, I just enjoyed watching your film on WMHT (Albany, NY) and was continually struck by the similarities to another story which is about an Englishman who came over to Canada about a hundred years ago to experience the wilderness. He too died of starvation but left a journal. If you haven't read it, I am sure you would find the story fascinating, as I did many years ago when I read it. It is the Legend of John Hornby. Read and enjoy. Yours and his are amazing stories!
Another Englishman, who came over to Canada, this time to live life as an Indian, is Grey Owl, who lived a long life, became quite famous, and published a number of books--another fascinating story.
P.S. I just ordered a copy of your film for my son, who, just out of college, drove across the country and up into Alaska for a several-year adventure, part of which was spent overwintering alone in a cabin outside of Fairbanks.
P.P.S. My son was born in 1969.
I just recently caught your film Call of the Wild and was very much impressed. I had read Krakauer's book back when it came out, so seeing your film actually put the mental picture to the voyage. It indeed is one curious adventure.
I must also comment on the part of your film that showed all the clips of memories that I grew up with (during Nirvana's "Breed") as I was born in '70, and also in Massachusetts. So, as another Gen X'er, I was happy to recapture Evel Knievel, Land of the Lost, the MTV flag, and many other "flashbacks" of growing up in that timeframe. Nice addition!
As for Penn's version of the story, I have yet to see it, and honestly probably never will. I believe some stories and misfortunes should never be glamorized Hollywood-style. Chris' outcome was obviously not something to brag about on a widescreen with a music score to appear in times of danger or stress, as in the way Hollywood usually works. Documentaries like yours, however, are great insights and show the actual respect one has for what they have read/learned about, and related to in their own individual and realistic way. What you did with this information, and how you presented it was done in such a wonderful and curious way.
Hi Ron, just watched The Call Of The Wild a couple of nights ago on the local PBS station. It is an awesome work. It inspired me at a time in my life when I really needed inspiration. I myself am an aspiring film-maker who has been mired in commercial/broadcast television for the past 23 years. Like you said in your film, sometimes life gets in the way of your plans. I also am married with two children. After watching your work, I feel that maybe I'm not too old to still follow my dreams. I've got a few years on you, (Murray State University class of 1985) but I think we have some of the same growing up experiences. Once again thanks for the great job, and most importantly the inspiration.
Hello Ron. My name is Adrienne, and I just watched your film about Chris McCandless. I really just wanted to let you know that you have a gift. It's the best documentary I have seen. I'm so glad you made the movie. To be honest, it helped me in some ways. Just because. I don't know exactly how to explain it but when I saw Into the Wild, the Sean Penn movie, I felt sad, I felt angry, just a lot of emotions. Also I was upset that I never did anything like that. Now I am 27, married with 2 kids, and I just felt a deep sense of longing...Anyway, your movie really helped. It left me feeling good and I guess I just wanted you to know that, so thank you.
p.s. You definitely made art. I loved everything. You didn't try to manipulate, you put yourself out there, it's really about you too, very courageous. I just can't say enough. A masterpiece.
Dear Ron Lamothe:
Your Documentary was really good and I had to watch it to the end. I thought it was very REAL no fakeness about it! I too, was a wandering spirit. I am a female pilot, and I have lived ALL over the U.S. over the years. I took the road less travelled. I moved longhorn cattle on 35,000 acres for Henry McKinley in Santa Fe, NM, for a year, took polo lessons, worked with all kinds of horses while there, and have lived in many other interesting places.
Your theory about his arm makes sense to me, because I too, damaged my right rotator cuff last year slipping off a Howard Hughes Spartan Aircraft. Then my dog pulled my arm again. It took a year to NEARLY heal, but is still not right. Right after the first time I damaged it, I could no longer close the door on an Aerostar 601P aircraft. That was very disappointing to me!
Thank you for all your work. You shed a lot of light on Chris McCandless and it is noteworthy and honorary of you to do so.
Cynthia Ann Sitko
I have just watched your documentary "Call of the wild". I really enjoyed it.
It was only after researching Chris McCandless's story that I discovered that your film existed. I had seen Sean Penn's adaptation of the story and while I did enjoy his movie I decided to find out more. I was concerned that your film would be a cynical attack on Penn's take on the story. But was pleased that wasn't the case. I think you made many good choices in your film. The most important one was allowing the audience to make their own minds up, something that is quite rare in documentary film making these days. Good luck with your future film making.
I'm from Copenhagen Denmark, but I've now moved to Sweden, and live in the outback. Let me start by saying how much I loved "The Call of the Wild". I watched and read "Into the wild", and as much as I enjoyed the story that was portrayed, it left me unsatisfied. Chris seemed almost politically correct in his rebellion, and the picture that was painted was that of a young man, who in the spirit of "Dead Poets Society" sucked the marrow out of life with such determination, he seemed like a superhero. So instead of inspiring me to emancipate myself from the society induced anxiety that makes us all good consumers (of everything from deodorants to people), I subconsciously wrote it off as a romanticized image. However, some time after, I googled Chris's name, and stumbled upon your website. I immediately got a hold of your movie. I've watched it 10 times now, and it is the single most inspiring piece of documentary I watched in my life. Your story (or chris's real story) shows the inner turmoil and insanity. He is an admirable character, but not superman. He's determined, but also self destructive and antisocial.
It was only after researching Chris McCandless's story that I discovered that your film existed. I had seen Sean Penn's adaptation of the story and while I did enjoy his movie I decided to find out more. I was concerned that your film would be a cynical attack on Penn's take on the story. But was pleased that wasn't the case. I think you made many good choices in your film. The most important one was allowing the audience to make their own minds up, something that is quite rare in documentary film making these days. Good luck with your future film making.
Guess I'm pretty out of touch with contemporary documentary filmmakers. I am temporarily camped out in a Hampton Inn off I-95, in my new town of St Augustine, Florida. Somehow got bored (!?) watching Venus & Kim blasting tennis balls at the US Open - actually pretty much can't hang in there with any tv sports - and AMAZINGLY, LUCKILY, PROVIDENTIALLY clicked right onto a PBS airing of your film. What an incredible story-teller you are...I just loved it.
I'm and independent producer and post artist in suburban Detroit. I just finished watching your Call of The Wild doc on PBS, and enjoyed it very much. I appreciate the vision, commitment, and professionalism that you put into your work. I wish there were more pieces like this. Just thought you'd like to know.
Dear Ron Lamothe,
I just wanted to write and tell you I was moved by your film. I'm a jazz trumpet player and would-be filmmaker, and I really like the way you put this film together. I never was a fan of Chris McCandless... never really followed the news story, but I found your film very compelling and interesting to watch. Like yourself, I had an adventure in my 20s that I barely lived through (riding my motorcycle from Taos to San Francisco on the spur of the moment, averaging 90 MPH during the journey.) I recorded your film on my Tivo box and have been reviewing parts of it for the last few months, because I find in it a lot of film ideas I may want to try when I make my first film. Thanks for putting it together.
Dear Mr. Ron Lamothe,
I found your documentary on Christopher McCandless (1968-92) entrancing. I was going to turn it off because of the sad subject, but the way you captured and followed the story prevented me from changing the channel. I watched on...
I did want to make a comment regarding the death of this young man. You have heard of cabin fever and of people going mad when separated from people. The early settlers write about the lonesomeness, early women went mad waiting for husbands to return from long hunting trips. I noted the Alaskans stating how they would walk out, start a fire and signal help, etc...But, when you are alone, have talked to no one for months, completely isolated from any sort of love, friendship, or contact with a human, or for that matter even a friendly pet, one goes mad. Your mind plays tricks, you imagine things, you lose sight of reality. Note, that the Alaskans you spoke with all had friends with them, all of them were in a social area or had friends nearby.
I recall in your film when you drove from the main states to Alaska for the 15-hour days, you noted how it was hard to think, what a hard three days it was. Think of being totally alone for 113 days. After all, one of the worst things they do to prisoners is to place them into isolation. Chris was never isolated for that long of a period until he went to Alaska. He spent time with the slabbers, spent time with the wheat farmers, spent time in college. You cite Thoreau in your film and compare Chris to him. Thoreau did not completely isolate himself. To be truly alone with no radio, no human voice, no pet, no computer, no contact is quite another endeavor. Chris was not a seeker, a true seeker would have found life not death. But sadly, Chris was just a lonesome forlorn young man with no direction.
Your film was excellent. It made me think long and hard afterwards about life, friendships, loneliness, solitude. Thank you for your film
First of all, let me apologize for any grammar mistakes. I've had a few Maker's Marks and feeling a little bit better than I did when I got out of work. I am 31 yrs old, born and raised in the suburbs of Cleveland, OH. Always been a fan of the outdoors and documentaries. I have a well paying job, and many amenities... however, I have never purchased cable for my upstairs living quarters above my parents to which I support.
I feel compelled to let you know however (I have never written to someone I have never known before) that since the switch to digital television, I have now gained 4 more PBS stations...which is awesome (screw cable!) About 3 weeks ago during a bout of insomnia, I had the fortunate opportunity to watch your doc of McCandless. My favorite docs are of wilderness and nature to begin with. I watch all sorts of films, and rarely a film touches me or even "scares" me.... slashers, thrillers, dramas...they do not affect me - The scariest movie that got me was "the Changeling" with George C. Scott...spook of a kid in a wheelchair? It's always the pychcological that gets me... that and creepy walking i.e.; the omen, the ring.
It seems like I have gotten off track, but in truth... I haven't had a chill up my spine like I had with the Changeling until I saw the picture of a gaunt Chris McCandless with a little note stating he was blessed. Since seeing your film, I was intrigued and a bit "haunted" and a bit envious of McCandless..... I understand the Alaskans..it was dumb, but it was also respectful. Since seeing your film, I have downloaded the kindle book. I am 2/3 thru....My respect, sadness, and anger still grows for the man. Shit...Had he just waited the 2 more weeks and worked, he could have been found prior to perishing....
But I digress...Just wanted to thank you for making public and acknowledging the work of a good soul - no matter how messed up it might be (yes I am on the fence, but leaning towards the freedom he had). As a person who's lifelong dream has been to be able to see every National Park there is an extra something.... a nudge maybe. I have always been the one to stay at home, work, take care of the parents.... but damn do I envy McCandless, and you for that matter. You've been there... I cant even imagine.
Just wanted to thank you for adding more knowledge and insight into my own little world. God Bless.
To Ron Lamothe
I recently watched your documentary, The Call of the Wild, and for some reason feel the need to share my thoughts. I am not quite sure why I am writing this email yet here I am on the third floor of the University of Rhode Island library with the intention of studying for my calculus final. The only thoughts flooding my head however are of Chris McCandless and Henry Thoreau, two men I admire greatly. Since having watched Sean Penn's Into the Wild about a year ago I have tried to saturate myself with information about McCandless's actions as well as with the philosophy of Thoreau. Even before hearing of the McCandless story I had this desire to live with the Native Americans, to live and die by the land.
I can draw many similarities between myself and Chris. Chris was driven by his yearning to "live deliberately" and to some extent driven by the hatred of his parents. I share the first dream, however my hatred is for society in the bigger aspect and what it has become over the past few decades. The interviews of college seniors ready to start work in New York and other cities saddens me and to a point angers. Have we forgotten to live? I wonder Thoreau's thoughts on our society today when more then a century and a half ago he wrote that he "did not recognize the authority of the state, which buys and sells men, women and children like cattle." To be schooled the first two decades of our lives, and then spend the rest with the illusion of freedom. I am currently halfway through my second year studying civil engineering. It is a field that interests me yet if I ever conform to the mundaneness of a 9-5, Monday to Friday career, I will have utterly failed myself.
Your documentary has strengthened the animal in me, assuring him he will get his opportunity. McCandeless's fascination in his freshman year philosophy class, from which I found Taoism, is another similarity, I also can't hold my liquor. I share his hate for material wealth, as well as his fluctuations between times of wanting peoples company and others when he preferred solitude. But of course Thoreau's words read by David are the most powerful to me. They signify what we have lost as a species, and what Thoreau and McCandless and perhaps others unknown have found. I write to tell you that Chris's story continues to find people who wish to serve a greater purpose in life. I hope that I can one day say I lived as deliberately as Thoreau did in Walden and so find true freedom.
Thank you and best regards.
Dear Mr. Lamothe,
Last night I saw your documentary movie "The Call of the Wild". McCandless' story has really touched me and has been in my mind ever since I heard it the first time. I think two years ago when Jon Krakauer's book was translated to Estonian and I saw it in a book store. I bought it right away, because I was a bit of a traveler myself, I have traveled as far as to Urals and all across Russia, with 20 $ for 2 months when I was 19. I read the book in one sitting, cried my eyes out, watched the movie the next night and was really touched by the movie, although it was kinda vanilla even at the first time watching. The part most movied me in the movie was the part with Leonard Knight, because even through my computer screen I felt what he was talking about. Now I find out in your movie, that he was really real. Anyway, I have been admirer for free spirits as long as I can remember. In Estonia, we have also a guy who went to the wild, but the story is totally different and he became a writer and aslo made a movie about it. He's name is Nikolai Baturin.
I also read your web page and the story behind making your documentary. I was really touched about your story and the will power it took to continue making it. I enjoyed the honesty about the movie, not even about Chris McCadnless, but honesty in more general way...I think it takes McCandless story and the reason why it means so much to us much more real in our everyday lives. Because the pattern is the same almost everywhere in the western society. I also liked your friend very much, the one with the beard with naked wedding invitations. I think the whole documentary had the true sense of freedom in it, much more than the Hollywood version had. Every time I see a Hollywood movie, in a sense I feel violated. In a sense I feel they will not give you any space, they make everything so self evident and psychological.
I think it takes us much more courage and freedom to be honest with ourselves when thinking about McCandless' story. Do we need these superheroes, larger-than-life characters to teach us about freedom? And why do we need freedom so evidently described - sitting in the middle of a high mountain? Does the mountain defines us a better freedom, instead of the rusty bus in the middle of a swamp near civilization. We are all still attached to out planet. We are still so unfree, I mean is our freedom larger when sitting on a Moon? or on canyon on Mars?
I hope all the best in your doings and thank you once more for the documentary.
Hi. I'm a 47 year-old black male, born, raised, and still residing in Atlanta, Georgia. I tell you that because, until I saw your film on the local Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) here in Atlanta, I'd never heard of the McCandless story. Yet, I was riveted to the film. I too have experienced the magic of youth and idealism, accompanied by the usual disappointments.
In this story though, I was inspired by Chris and the fact that he never gave up - on following his dream. Marching to the beat of a different drummer, as we used to say. I also want to take a moment to say what a wonderful, complete job you did in the making of this film (unlike the Hollywood version). To actually see the places that were instrumental in his development makes your film "so real" to us.
I've just watched your film, "Call of the Wild" and I was totally engrossed by it. I'd of course heard of the story, but hadn't read the book "Into the Wild" or seen the film version. Evidently I'm a Gen-X -er as well, I graduated college in '88, and like the '90 class you graduated in, didn't have the clear life path that the recent graduates have. You totally had me at the montage, those images were totally the iconic images of my lifetime! Anything that has a clip of "The Breakfast Club" is tops in my book! I still have a lot of wanderlust in me, being single and a flight attendant for a major airline, so the story hit me on many levels. Congratulations on a fine work of art.
I thoroughly enjoyed the docu on the misgivings of a young man like Chris McCandless. Besides being a thoughtful and well researched and fair piece, I found your commentary on the Sean Penn crowd's numerous roadblocks very entertaining and cleverly stated. Mr. Penn and his ilk are, on the surface, not nice people. I am keeping this respectful as I do not know you personally but if I had known you then I would say Mr. Penn is a self-promoting bum. Good luck to you and God bless.
I saw "Call of the Wild" a few years back at the SF Indie Doc Fest, and I so enjoyed it. I studied documentary in college, and this remains one of my favorite movies, and I think still the best documentary I have ever seen - largely because of your role in the story. The whole self-reflexive thing adds a lot of meaning and power - it's such a good way to engage the audience by guiding them through your experience of the story. I am writing now because last night I saw Sean Penn's version, and wanted to tell you that yours is much better. I'm going to ask for it for Christmas.
My name is Lorenzo and I live in Pesaro, Italy, so, first of all, I do apologize with you for my English. I went through Chris's story by the Sean Penn movie, last August, and, as a lot of "us" I was shocked. It's since then that this story is in my head every minute. It's pretty hard to write this letter without falling into superficiality and pretty hard for me to find the right words to express thanks. Thank you because the documentary you made is wonderful, really. Lamothe beats Penn 100 to 0. It is not ridiculous, your documentary is alive, real, warm, and romantic. It's the victory of the reality on the false and of the poverty on the wealth. It's an example. This story really needs a documentary like your to be told. A backpack and a camera. They make me laugh all the Oscars and the world that is there. You are pure. Never sell yourself, stay free.
Take care, really really honoured to met in my life a person like you. Hope you understand when I call you "maestro,"
This is Wouter, but you can call me David if it's too hard (sort of a nickname). I watched your documentary the other day, Call of the Wild, about Christopher McCandless, and I thought it was brilliant. I just wanted to tell you, about the part where you couldn't find any Chris's of this generation, they do exist! Some are just too shy to say, and some are just to shy to act. I am one of them! The one that is too shy to act. What I envy about Chris is that he was able to put all his worries behind him, his parents, his career, and he was able to not care what others thought about him. I'm not up to that point yet. He passed away in 1992, and I was born in 1992, I believe I've been reincarnated with his spirit. From the movie "Into the Wild" he speaks of philosophies that I completely agree on, and from your documentary everyone seems to call him "naive," "stubborn" or just plain "dumb." And from what I can gather from what everyone else I seem to fit the traits. I used to live in Bali, and I used to have a car that I would just drive into one direction for days on end, until I found a private beach, with no civilization, and I felt so alive! Now I live in Amsterdam, almost in the heart of the city, and I'm getting sick of people pretty fast, they way they judge people for what they wear or how they won't hire me because I don't have the right haircut. But at the same time, there are people who are cool, who I meet at the bar, and they're always travelers just passing by. And I told myself after reading/watching "Into the Wild" and watching your documentary, and researching more of Chris, I realized I wanted to do that too! The thrill of backpacking, the adventure! This is why right now, I'm working to get my camping equipment, and to get a ticket to the East Coast, and hitch-hiking from there just to see the Magic Bus!
Anyways, I might be getting a little off topic, 'cause all I wanted to tell you was that your questions of "if there are Chris's of this generation" would be laid to rest, because yes there are. My name is Wouter de Vries, but I will soon be David Supertramp :)
David de Vries
I stumbled across "Call of the Wild" on channel 44 last night. Thank you for persevering with this project, and not giving up when you found out Sean Penn was going ahead with his version! Your film offers the necessary counterpoint (antidote?) to the Hollywood version. Aside from being thoughtful, funny, and self-aware without being self-indulgent, your film added to my understanding of Chris's story. Having followed it since the original Krakauer article in "Outside," your work really struck a chord with me.
Dear Mr. Lamothe,
I saw your amazing film yesterday on PBS, having no prior knowledge of the Chris McCandless story save a quite vague recollection of seeing the trailer for the Penn movie.
Your reconaissance of Chris McCandless' journey is one of the finest documentary films I have ever watched.
I simply wanted to thank you for creating a space in which this young man's story could be told without slant, hype, or skew of the truth. His story needed none of those things. His story needed only the proper teller. Thank you.