Odyssey of a Decommissioned School Bus
Mark Kendall’s debut documentary film, La Camioneta, is ostensibly about the journey made by a decommissioned American school bus to become a mode of transportation for Guatemalan workers. But the film is really about how something as seemingly insignificant as a bus can be part of something larger.
The idea for La Camioneta came when Kendall, BA’05, MA’08, while traveling in Central America after finishing his master’s degree, found himself in conversation with the driver of a camioneta. “I learned that the bus I was riding had originally served schoolchildren in Tennessee,” he says.
“I was struck by how close to home this felt, and the experience stayed with me for a while.”
Recently selected as a New York Times Critics’ Pick and named as one of the 10 best independent films of the year by IndieWire, a leading independent film website, La Camioneta was Kendall’s thesis project for his master of fine arts in documentary film at the School of Visual Arts in New York. His story about a decommissioned school bus—from its auction in Pennsylvania to its transformation into a brightly colored camioneta for transporting the citizens of Quetzal City, Guatemala—introduces viewers to the man who wants to make life better for his family by adding the bus to his fleet, the artist who sees the yellow school bus as his next masterpiece, and the man who understands the risks taken by driving it. From the undercurrent of violence in Guatemalan society to the economic impact of refurbished goods, the story flows from the journey of the bus.
Having screened the film at film festivals, art museums and small art-house theaters during the past year, Kendall recently received funding from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala to distribute it in that country. “It’s an incredible opportunity,” he says. “We’ll be able to put it in some theaters, schools and communities that might not otherwise have access to independent film.”