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Roll Out, Cowboy


USA Director: Elizabeth Lawrence


Producers: Elizabeth Lawrence, Warner Boutin Cinematographer: Elizabeth Lawrence Editor: Elizabeth Ross


Cast: Chris Sand, Shawn Parke, Jonah Carpenter 2010/color/85 min.


ELIZABETH LAWRENCE


Elizabeth Lawrence worked as a produc- tion manager and line producer before shifting into direction. She has written and directed several shorts, including Beyond the Gates of Ill Repute, an official selection of Fantasia Film Festival and the Boston Underground Film Festival. Roll Out, Cowboy is her feature film debut.


In Dunn Center, North Dakota—a dying little burg in the midst of farm country— musician Chris Sand has devised an eccentric style that partakes of both rural and urban tradition. He sings country, rock, folk and bluegrass—but his real pas- sion is hip-hop. Calling himself Sandman the Rapping Cowboy, Sand set out on a road trip around the West in 2008, playing in barnyards for fundraisers. Joining him were a couple of friends with a similar bent, who describe themselves as “a hip-hop-influenced comedy duo.” This charming documentary follows their quest, which Sand likens to that of Woody Guthrie. With an odd genius and bravery, they take the “stage” to share the sounds they have invented, fresh and peculiar to their own gifts and sensibilities. The cultural gap between them and their mostly elderly audience proves wide—but because their material is so unusual, it’s clear that would be the case in any circumstance.


Through first-time director Elizabeth Lawrence’s lens, Sand comes across as smart, articulate, sincere—and fascinatingly naive, with a tenuous grasp on reality. When a would-be mentor tries to save him financially by training him for a long-haul trucking job, Sand fails utterly, laughing like a mischievous schoolboy when he crashes the man’s semitrailer. On tour, his performances are at times unintentionally, jaw-droppingly hilarious. To want him to succeed is to fret over his offbeat perception of the world and its impact on his true self and his persona—as different, as he puts it, as Clark Kent and Superman. The discrepancy can at times be cringe-inducing, but it’s also touching, compelling and downright groovy.


—VAL MOSES


Preceded by:


Waiting for the Train: The Toshio Hirano Story Director: Oscar Bucher USA/2009/20 min.


The humorous and heartfelt true story of Japanese immigrant Toshio Hirano, whose life was transformed by the music of country legend Jimmie Rodgers. From Tokyo to Tennessee to San Francisco, Toshio chases a passionate dream for over 40 years and is rewarded with a life well lived, filled with music, song and dance.


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DOCUMENTARY


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