"In Transit," the lovely final film by legendary documentarian Albert Maysles, focuses on the various passengers aboard the Empire Builder, the busiest long-distance train route in America. Aided by co-directors Lynn True, Nelson Walker, Ben Wu, and David Usui, the filmmaker captures the conversations and connections formed between what were once complete strangers, and in the process provides a vivid cross-section of humanity in all its messy glory.
As the title implies, many of these passengers are embarking on transitions in their own lives: a lovestruck young man heads back to his hometown to see the high school sweetheart he hasn't seen in years; a woman returns after visiting the daughter she gave up for adoption 26 years earlier; an aging traveler who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. offers sage advice to a directionless younger man. "In Transit" exemplifies what documentaries do best, offering a window into lives outside our own familiar worldview. Whether they're returning home or setting off on a new adventure, the passengers' stories tap into the romanticism of traveling by train: it's fast enough to get you where you're going, while providing the freedom to let you sit back and contemplate the options before you get there. All the while, a ground-level view of the country landscape whooshes by, separated only by a thin pane of glass. Stick around after the film for a post-screening Skype Q&A with director, producer, and editor, Lynn True.