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  • Writer's pictureeclectic Stefan

Nomadland: “A journey of hope”

Fern (Frances Mc Dormand)

Nomadland is a composed and serene movie about caring and peaceful people. This is not to say that the nomads who inhabit and traverse Nomadland’s landscape aren’t in dire situations but the reasons for their choice of a nomadic lifestyle are varied, from enforced homelessness to a conscious choice to remain on the road, although as Fern says, “ I am not homeless, I am houseless.”

Nomadland Official Trailer

Following the death of her husband, a worker for US Gypsum in Empire, Nevada (yes, it was a real company town run by US Gypsum, a real US company) and the subsequent closure ofthe plant during a recession with the resultant deletion of the town’s postcode, Fern experiences personal loss and economic hardships.

The gypsum plant & the deserted company town, Empire, Nevada

The name Empire becomes an ironic indicator of the residents' harsh testament and failed corporate economic policies and brutal financial imperatives.

Fern stores most of her belongings, re-organises her life to fit into her utility van and begins life as a drifting nomad. Fern is able to feed herself and provide for her essential needs but barely scrapes together enough to keep herself going physically and emotionally.

She meets people who introduce her to and guide her through the van dweller life-style. One van dweller and fellow nomad, Swankie, is direct in her advice that Fern needs to be self-sufficient and not rely on anyone, even when Fern faces emergencies, whether financial or medical or something as seemingly unproblematic as a flat tyre, as she inevitably does.

Seasonal jobs across Nebraska, South Dakota, Nevada and Arizona provide Fern with enough money to maintain her existence. After an invitation to stay with fellow nomad Dave’s family, Fern does get a rest from her van home. She enters the comfort of a soft bed with warm blankets inside the warm walls of the family home and experiences the emotional acceptance of the family who welcome her and invite her to stay with them.

Despite the unreserved welcome from Dave and his family, Fern is drawn and returns to the back of her van home covered in her thin blankets and cooking on her portable stove. The house, the home and the loving family enclose her, not to the point of suffocation, but certainly enough to give her a sense of restriction.

She will always be aware of other people’s needs, how they react to her and how they expect her to behave around them. The conventions and other people’s social expectations of home and family life become encumbrances.

The other nomads are family. They see each other regularly at campsites and through work opportunities and then they part before seeing each other again.

They never say, “Goodbye”. Instead, they prefer to say, “See you down the road”

LEARN: Nomadland, A Journey of Hope:

The vastness of the wilderness of South Dakota, Nebraska, Arizona and Nevada creates a sense of tranquility and beauty that belies the harshness that the nomads experience. Fern doesn’t rely on welfare and prefers to engage in seasonal work at Amazon Prime’s distribution centre, a fast food hub in South Dakota, as a campsite host at an RV/camp and then back to Amazon during the holiday season.

Undoubtedly, the landscape across the Badlands of South Dakota, the canyons and the vast deserts is outstanding and generates a sense of nomadic life as idyllic. But there's more to it than that.

The gentle nature of the nomads as they relate to their fellow nomads and others across the country belies the dangers that can present themselves when you’re a lone traveller parked on the side of a highway in a remote part of the United States, such as someone knocking on your van door without warning and without the traveller knowing that person’s intent. One scene in Nomadland shows the anxiety caused by an unexpected visitor to Fern’s van.

The film also highlights that not everyone who lives in one of the richest nations in the world lives a life of plenty.

Nomadland is shot in a documentary style and presents an historical document, not in the wider world sense of history, but as a personal history. It is shot in subdued tones, almost black and white at times.

ABOUT: Nomadland’s Cinematography (Short Video Clip)

Joshua James Richards, Nomadland’s cinematographer, explains his approach to filming Nomadland.

ABOUT: The Creation of Nomadland’s Soundscape/Sound Design & Editing

(Short Video Clip)

Sergio Diaz, Nomadland’s sound editor/soundscape designer, explains his approach to creating a soundscape for Nomadland.

Bob Wells

The social realism of the film is highlighted by Shawnie, Bob Wells and Linda May, close friends of Fern, who are real world nomads/van dwellers in the United States.

Bob Wells has inspired and supported thousands of people who embrace a nomadic lifestyle centred on van dwelling. Wells founded the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, an annual gathering of vandwellers in Quartzsite, Arizona, and Homes on Wheels Alliance, a charity organisation dedicated to the promotion of vandwelling.

As to the description of Bob Wells and van dwellers as Rubber Tramps, you need to know that it is the exact phrase he coined to describe himself and the many other caravan nomads.

The term Rubber Tramp refers to people who live or travel in their van, recreational vehicle (RV) or car, which utilise rubber tyres.

LEARN MORE about Bob Wells and van dwelling at Bob Wells’ Website:

Nomadland is a meditation on the human condition. Rightly, you could say every movie handles the human condition in one way or another. The blend of real nomads telling their real world stories and experiences blended with the fictional depiction of Jessica Bruder’s story, on whom Fern’s character is based, adds an authenticity to the dramatic depiction.


Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Nomadland does have a political heart. It shows what lies behind and beyond economics and depicts the humanitarian aspect of job loses, the death of a loved partner and the nature of houseless living.

Nomadland gives us the essence of who the nomads are as people and snippets of what has brought them to where they are, not just geographically, but philosophically and emotionally.

Nomadland: All images and official trailer © Searchlight Films

Nomadland is screening in selected cinemas. Check your local cinemas for session times.



(Films with similar themes, social dilemmas and human stories as Nomadland)


Grapes of Wrath (1940)

The Grapes of Wrath is an American drama film directed by John Ford. It was based on John Steinbeck's 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. The film tells the story of the Joads, an Oklahoma family, who, after losing their farm during the Great Depression in the 1930s, become migrant workers and end up in California. The motion picture details their arduous journey across the United States as they travel to California in search of work and opportunities for the family members.

The film is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. In 1989, it was one of the first 25 films selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or

aesthetically significant.”

Watch Original Trailer: The Grapes of Wrath

Read Film Reviews: The Grapes of Wrath



Nebraska stars the wonderful and perhaps lesser known Bruce Dern as Woody Grant, who walks US highways in pursuit of what he believes is his million dollar jackpot lottery win. Woody is on a quest. His character in Nebraska equals the fantastic performance by the equally wonderful Frances McDormand in Nomadland. Nebraska, although its purpose is different, complements Fern’s story in its depiction of a character with a huge heart. Family members and acquaintances, who learn of Woody’s fortune, suddenly show the dark heart of human relations.

Nebraska Official Trailer © Paramount Pictures



Our Daily Bread (1934) is a Depression era film that presents protagonists who flee the social and economic perils of urban America, plagued by high unemployment and labor unrest to seek a lost rural identity.

A struggling Depression-era couple from the city inherit a derelict farm, and in an effort to make it a productive enterprise, they establish a cooperative in alliance with unemployed locals who possess various skills.

Our Daily Bread is a deeply personal and politically controversial work that Vidor financed himself when M-G-M executives declined to back the production. M-G-M was uncomfortable with its characterisation of big business, and particularity banking institutions,

as corrupt.

Detailed Synopsis of Our Daily Bread

Watch the final dramatic sequence from Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread: Full Movie Free Download

Commentary about King Vidor's film, Our Daily Bread "The film touches on the implications that the whole American democratic system is corrupt and should be left behind by this rural community...a politically charged subject on the question of labor and land ownership.”

Raymond Durgnat and Scott Simmon, authors of King Vidor, American

"It is some measure of the ardor Vidor felt for Our Daily Bread that he managed to make it outside the studio system and in spite of American cinema's traditional aversion to controversial subjects. Our Daily Bread is still naive, simplistic, and awkward, but it remains extremely lovely in its innocence.”

John Silver, author of King Vidor's Hallelujah

" strange but stirring film that finds equal fault with socialism and democracy and sets about creating a system of its own, based on the charisma of one cannot accept Our Daily Bread as anything more than a well-mounted political tract from a theorist unwilling or unable see a situation with any real insight." John Baxter, author of Hollywood in the Thirties and King Vidor



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