Au Soleil (To the Sun) (2010) – By Cary Conley

“In a car, you are always in a compartment; and because you are used to it, you don’t realize that through that car window, everything you see is just more TV.”

So goes the opening line of Josh Wedlake’s lovely and whimsical 16-minute animated documentary film.  In the fall of 2009, Josh and a small group of friends decided to forego the television set and get an up close and personal view of the world.  So they set off from Berlin to cycle to Istanbul with a goal of making the journey in 30 days.  Along the way they faced obstacles such as mechanical problems with their bicycles, sore knees and blistered feet, huge thunderstorms, and in Romania, the Carpathian Mountain Range.  The group cycled through picturesque villages and other lovely places but also traveled through miles of abandoned and half-built apartment buildings as well as towns so polluted that “two-thirds of the children were born with mental defects.”

But along the way, they were reminded of the innate goodness of humanity as total strangers in Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania opened their homes and their kitchens to this bedraggled band of travelers.

Wedlake’s film is essentially a meditation on travel and the human spirit—both the cyclers’ as well as the people across Eastern Europe.  The film can sometimes be depressing but also uplifting, and always thoughtful as well as thought-provoking.  I suppose I identified with the travelers’ journey since I myself, as an eighteen-year-old, took part of the summer after my high school graduation to cycle across a good portion of my state.  Along the way I learned about perseverance and dignity, sorrow, compromise, and the appreciation of the human spirit, much as Mr. Wedlake did.

To the Sun is a wonderfully unique film short and is well-worth the 16 minutes it takes to view it.  Mr. Wedlake is a talented animator and storyteller and I enjoyed his film very much.  To view To the Sun, please go to: http://vimeo.com/10522970.