OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

The World Before Your Feet

One City. 8000 Miles.

The World Before Your Feet is a disarmingly charming documentary about Matt Green’s quixotic eight-year quest to walk 8,000 miles of streets, highways, park paths, piers and cemeteries in New York City.  And oh, the people he meets and the things he sees.
He’s a history buff, a nature lover, a cell-phone camera photographer and a writer with an eye for the poetic, creating accounts for his ‘I’m Just Walkin’ blog of each day’s treks and the sights he sees – things like the oldest living thing in New York (a Tulip Poplar), the location of New York’s slave market, and the spot where the first birth control clinic in the U.S. opened.

Poster for the walking-and-talking documentary The World Before Your FeetThe 30-something Green, a civil engineer who gave up a desk job to start walking (he hiked across America, first) is curious, informed and learning every day of his life. Aimless? He hears “How do you earn a living?” almost every time he describes what he’s up to. But here is a guy living lean (house-sitting, pet-sitting and staying with friends all over town), spending little on food and nothing else but time as he gives up a normal life for this one thing he really loves doing.

Using the World’s Fair scale model of New York to orient us, director Jeremy Workman lets Green do almost all of the talking. Our tour guide gasps at sunsets, marvels at Coney Island in mid-blizzard, stumbles into a pick-up football game during another snow storm, and waxes lyrical about curbside gardens, the city’s Redwood trees, and figs. He points out ‘churchagogues’ (churches that have moved into abandoned synagogues), and reveals why there are little painted dots on sewer grates.

Green professes to see no money-making possibilities in his mission; it just “seems important” that he finish it. And chatting with an ex-fiancée and ex-girlfriend, we learn a bit about the cost of being quixotic, even if we envy the guy who has mastered New York on $15 a day.

The World Before Your Feet suggests an entirely new way of visiting, or living in, New York. As Green stops to take a picture of a 9/11 memorial mural or pauses to share a beer with the retired Caribbean islanders tending a community garden, you can’t help but think that this is the way to see New York, and that this guy should run for mayor.

– Roger Moore, Movie Nation

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