A Map for Saturday

| September 14, 2009 | 8 Comments
mapforsaturday A Map for Saturday

A Map for Satruday

A Map for Saturday chronicles Brook Silva-Braga’s travels through 26 countries on four continents. Along the way, a number of solo travelers intersect with Silva-Braga, helping tell the story of the places they’ve been and the experiences they share.

Silva-Braga’s aim is to inspire all of his viewers to travel long-term. Just as Kathryn and I hope to insire you through our blog, Silva-Braga does his best to you to motivate you to go and book airline tickets straight away. Hopefully, his experience—and ours—will get your feet itching to travel. If there’s on thing this movie makes clear—the travel bug is easy to catch, just watch the movie—and read our blog, too!

I liked A Map for Saturday. It’s a film that, like its director, goes its own way. Its narrative is assembled around the experience and the cast of characters, focusing on each character’s personal growth and emotional experience as vagabonds. Locales serve as backdrops and never as subjects. As Kevin Kelly writes on his blog, “This kind of vagabonding is more a state of mind than a state of motion.” And its that state of mind with which Silva-Braga is concerned. Ironically, this is at once the film’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness. As a fellow traveler, I would have appreciated a more expansive look at the destinations and the cultures therein. It seems that this was an opportunity missed, and some of the scenes come off as somewhat myopic. It’s not that I expected the movie to supplant National Geographic, but I think I would have appreciated some of the narrative a little more if it had been wound into the setting a little further. This isn’t to say it doesnt happen. At one point, the movie turns its attention to post-tsunami Koh Phi Phi in Thailand, and the loosely coordinated efforts of backpackers working aside locals to help restore the island in the absence of any sustained assistance from the Thai government. Here, backpacker and destination are inexorably linked, and the movie fires on all cylinders. The result is the most compelling five minutes of the entire movie. But that’s a minor criticism, and a tough thing to do when you are faced with vagabonds as subjects.

A Map for Saturday expertly captures the depth and breadth of the backpacking experience owing to Brook Silva-Braga, around whom the film is assembled. The movie succeeds because Silva-Braga is open and honest in a manner that is at once both charming and disarming. The prospect of thirty pounds of film equipment might be too heavy a load for a conversation to bear—especially those transient conversations that occur in hostels and the backs of buses. Silva-Braga, however, put his subjects at ease and takes up a good portion of the load, leading his subjects in the right direction and offering them the opportunity to provide their perspectives. The result is spontaneous and compelling film—nowhere is this better evidenced than in the segments focused on Sabrina Hezinger (Silva-Braga’s German girlfriend in Australia, who ended up staying in Sydney and going to university there). Despite her difficulty communicating (at the outset of her trip, her command of english isn’t too strong), Silva-Braga really captures her expressiveness.

Bottom line, I really enjoyed the film. It breaks new ground and in so doing demonstrates that long-term travel can be simultaneously self-indulgent and one of the most important things you may ever do. This theme is revisited in the DVD’s extra features, wherein Silva-Braga provides updates that reveal the effect that long-term travel has had on the cast. This is a theme reinforced shortly before the credits roll, when Silva-Braga himself admits: “A normal life really doesn’t seem that attractive anymore. I can’t imagine not traveling again. I can’t imagine going back to a real job.”

While Brook Silva-Braga may be best known for A Map for Saturday, he has a new project on the go—One Day in Africa is his second documentary feature. In February 2008, he crossed from Spain to Morocco for an open-ended trip through Africa. Following a day in the life of six African people from six different countries, it explores the range of diversity on the massive continent. It’s now available for pre-order. Check it out here.

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Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. His latest book, The Physics of Flocking, gathers his favourite writing featured over the past two years on Two Go Round-The-World in columns like 'Looking Back' and 'The Whole Picture'—along with new reflections.

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  1. A Map for Saturday | Eager Existence | June 13, 2012
  1. Jess says:

    You make a great point about “A Map for Saturday”‘s failure to investigate the cultures through which Silva-Braga travels. It’s almost as if the National Geographic treatment is given to RTW travelers rather than the places they visit. In any event, it makes for an entertaining movie.

    Great review!

    • Daniel says:

      Thanks, Jess. I agree with you. Although, I realize the primary subject is the backpacker, I can’t help but think that you can’t have a backpacker without showcasing the lands through which he/she is travelling (a little bit more). But, as far as I’m concerned, this is a very minor criticism. I think that the movie is great, and wholeheartedly recommend it!

  2. I absolutely LOVED “A Map For Saturday”. I thought it really captured the spirit of travel. This documentary further fueled my wanderlust, I have to say. :)

  3. Totally agree, great review! We watched it before we left to get excited, but yeh, not too deep and definitely pretty vague on trip details and extended stays. We feel like it’s a lot different once you get on the road than what he was expressing, but it also could be that traveling as a couple is easier in some sense and less lonely!

  4. Shawn says:

    To be fair, in the time available it is really only possible to do a good job of focusing on either the backpackers and their mindsets, or the local cultures. Definitely not both though. Do one thing well instead of two things just okay.

    It was a fun little motivation booster for sure. What I took from it that actually lasted though was the idea of Saturdays. How every day is Saturday when you’re traveling. It’s such a simple way to capture the premise of backpacker freedom. So nowadays if I’m traveling around I like to forget what day it is and just assume it’s Saturday.

  5. Ken says:

    I am going to try to get my parents to watch this documentary so they know what it’s all about.

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