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Critic's Pick

'Riding the Rails'

April 12, 1998|Kevin Thomas

During the Great Depression, an estimated 4 million Americans left home and boarded boxcars in a desperate search for work. Of that number, about 250,000 were teenagers, and filmmakers Michael Uys and Lexy found 10 vital, engaging individuals to tell their stories in their irresistible documentary. Even those of us born during the Depression and familiar with hard-times images of the era all our lives will be amazed at how Uys and Lovell have mined archival sources to create a broad canvas of an America in dire straits from coast to coast. Images of bread lines, beggars, Hoovervilles and hobo jungles mingle with footage of young people actually riding the rails, sometimes in the process of either fleeing much-despised railroad detectives or being arrested by them. In short, they've brought alive the past in a way that places their 10 participants in as rich a context as possible (KCET Monday at 9 p.m.).

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