Open Road

(2014, 16mm transfer to HD, black & white/sound, 71 minutes)

Open Road is an experimental documentary about urban space designed for movement and storage of private motor vehicles. The film explores the space allocated to roads and parking, fuel distribution facilities, and the activities of car maintenance, road construction and other aspects of a “drive-thru” culture.  

Referencing John Charles Fremont's The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Oregon and California 1843-44, Open Road juxtaposes present-day urban environs with Fremont’s historical record to consider the similarities, and vast differences, between the arduous nature of Fremont’s expedition and our daily use of modern roadways and private motor vehicles.


“Not your typical road movie, Alain LeTourneau’s OPEN ROAD is nevertheless just that. Shot on 16mm, this portrait of urban space designed for the movement and storage of motor vehicles surveys the ultimate expression of American culture. OPEN ROAD examines modern roads as places that have a specific function and character in the American urban landscape. Using excerpts from early explorer John Charles Fremont’s The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Oregon and California, LeTourneau’s film uses this text as an echo in time, commenting on and drawing clues to just how far American expansionism has taken itself in its most powerful physical expression, the Open Road.”

Adam Sekuler, guest programmer Unknown Pleasures Film Festival (Berlin, Germany)

“There are human beings in Alain LeTourneau's latest documentary, OPEN ROAD, but they play supporting roles. Bit parts. The star of the show is the car. In this cri du coeur – and make no mistake, this quiet, patiently observed film is a cry of despair -- LeTourneau considers how the built environment is an extension of the logic of the automobile, with its politics of private space, and its seductive fantasies of escape and autonomy. Though we hear excerpts from the journals of explorer John Fremont (whose accounts might sound familiar to any contemporary road warrior, what with the long days and the indigestible food, but whose travels are in fact a world away from the aching alienation of the freeway), this film is haunted by voices we do not explicitly hear-- David Harvey, John Stilgoe, and James Kunstler perhaps most of all-- but whose critiques of the geographies of late-capitalism are woven into this lyrical, melancholy road movie.”

Bill Brown, filmmaker and Lecturing Fellow Duke University

“In a culture inundated with images – both moving and still – how can the visual regain its power to be revelatory and revolutionary? How can art function politically as a tool to see anew that which has become invisible? In the case of Alain LeTourneau’s extraordinary new film, OPEN ROAD, the uber-normality of our shared built environment – highways, parking lots, car washes – are seen through a new lens. We all know these spaces of transport –but do we really know how to see them? LeTourneau’s film with it’s beautifully framed, meditative scenes shot in 16mm black and white film eases us out of our standard modes of orientation and into an active seeing. In doing so, the film challenges a comfort in the normal and begins to insinuate a critique of a society that allows the combustible engine to dominate our shared space. LeTourneau creates a wonderful contrast between the modernist dream of speed and efficiency by pairing the film with voiceover excerpts from the diaries of 19th century explorer John Charles Fremont as he crosses the Rocky Mountains to reach Oregon where OPEN ROAD was filmed.”

Susannah Sayler, Co-Founder Canary Project and Professor Syracuse University

“In OPEN ROAD, Alain LeTourneau surveys a territory that's hidden in plain sight, using an immersive audio-visual road map to demarcate the psychic landmarks of a region's underlying ecological legacy. Citing the writings of John Charles Fremont, whose mid-19th century expeditions to Oregon and California would contribute to the fulfillment of the nation’s Manifest Destiny, the film draws a parallel between two worlds. The carefully framed images of a modern urban space are contrasted with the narrative of the hardships involved in exploring it more than 160 years ago. Yet, on a deeper level, these two realities converge, like fast-moving reflections in a rearview mirror at the center of a vehicle’s windshield. Examining the nature of landscape, urbanism and documentary practice, the film also suggests that the exploration of our native land is still continually in progress. The challenge is to remain “open” to the journey before us, whether investigating the urban territories of the here and now, or entering into the spectral wilderness of deep historical time.”

Luke Sieczek, artist and media educator

Funded in part by
Northwest Film Forum, Regional Arts and Culture Council, AIM Hatchfund