Bikes of Wrath

Emma Castle
6th Feb 2019

This road trip documentary follows a group of five Aussie mates who decide to recreate the journey described in John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

Five guys, five bikes, USD$420 and a 2600km journey through the ‘dust bowl’ of Oklahoma to the promised land of Bakersfield, California.

There are several components to this film. The first part is the basic challenge of getting that far with so little money, relying on the kindness of strangers and the group’s busking skills. The second thread explores the deeper themes of poverty - in the modern day and in the Great Depression when the book is set - and humankind’s willingness to offer assistance to their fellow man.

The documentary draws clear parallels between the poverty of 1930s America and the state of the nation under Trump’s administration, and parts of the novel are read out to illustrate this point. Steinbeck’s words resonate as much today as they did when they were written.

The strength of the film is in the unscripted, incidental meetings along the way. From the schizophrenic man the riders encounter in the desert, to the BBQ diner owner who is recovering from heart surgery, the colour and heart of the film is the characters who populate the journey.

What could’ve have been an annoying hipster attempt at do-gooding - especially when you’re talking about a bunch of privileged men ‘dropping into’ a life of poverty for the purposes of a creative project that will propel their careers and return them to a life of comfort - manages to stay on the right side of sincere.

There are some genuinely moving scenes when everyday Americans go out of their way to assist this troupe of adventurers, and the Aussies are endearing in their knock-about approach to their, at times, deeply uncomfortable circumstances.

Directed by Cameron Ford and Charlie Turnbull, the award winning documentary Bikes Of Wrath is being released Australia wide from 12 February - screenings can be found here >>