"A Hypnotic, rail-rattling tone poem of subversive wayfarer wisdom." - Sacramento News & Review

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THIS SPECTACULAR TRAVEL ADVENTURE FAITHFULLY PHOTOGRAPHED IN REALISTIC BLACK AND WHITE FILM AT CONSIDERABLE RISK FROM SPEEDING FREIGHT TRAINS AND IN SECRET HOBO JUNGLES IN THE DOGGED PURSUIT OF THE IMPOSSIBLY CONVOLUTED STORY OF THE HERETOFORE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE CENTURY-OLD FOLKLORIC PRACTICE OF HOBO AND RAILWORKER GRAFFITI AND THE ABSURD QUEST FOR THE TRUE IDENTITY OF RAILROADING’S GREATEST ARTIST WILL LIKELY AMUSE AND CONFOUND YOU IN ITS SINCERE ATTEMPT TO UNDERSTAND AND PRESERVE THIS ARTFORM.

Educational and institutional sales: Video Data Bank

 

Who is Bozo Texino? chronicles the search for the source of a ubiquitous and mythic rail graffiti— a simple sketch of a character with an infinity-shaped hat and the scrawled moniker, “Bozo Texino”— a drawing seen on railcars for over 80 years. Daniel’s gritty black and white film uncovers a secret society and it’s underground universe of hobo and railworker graffiti, and includes interviews with legendary boxcar artists Colossus of Roads, Coaltrain, Herby, and The Rambler.
Shooting over a 16-year period, Daniel rode freights across the West carrying a Super-8 sound camera and a 16mm Bolex. During his quest he discovered the roots of a folkloric tradition that has gone mostly unnoticed for a century. Taking inspiration from Beat artists Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac, the film functions as both a sub-cultural documentary and a stylized fable on wanderlust and outsider identity. “I was drawn to the subject by the universal graffiti impulse and the classic, corny notion of freight train blues escape.” – BDWho is Bozo Texino? is a film on the 100-year-old tradition of hobo and railworker graffiti. The project is the result of a 20-year study of “monikers “ and is fabricated from hours of 16mm and super 8 film, most of it shot on freight trips across the western US. The film includes interviews with some of the railroad’s greatest graffiti legends: Colossus of Roads, The Rambler, Herby (RIP) and the granddaddy of them all, Bozo Texino. The film also catches some of the socioeconomic history of hobo subculture from its roots after the Civil War to the present day. Included are interviews with tramps that Daniel encountered in his travels. The range of the interviews, and the film’s style deal with both the clichés and the harsh realities of tramp life. In researching hobo culture Daniel found the written histories fraught with myth, and was initially frustrated by the apparent lack of verifiable truth to much of the lore.

"At some point in the research, and in the filming, I had to give up on the idea of being able to tell every story down to the detail. One of my initial impulses was to create a highly resolved document that would allow people in the future to see exactly what this culture was like. Impossible enough. But at the same time I was painfully aware that to broadcast these discoveries would alter or wreck the innocence and freedom that was there. Gradually, I realized that to report on freight train culture I should just acknowledge this mythologizing that permeates the culture and adopt that as an essential part of my approach. But the difficulty was, at the same time, to present this purely documentary material that I earnestly want to be appreciated and preserved. And no matter what the disappointment might be in finding the lonely reality behind a particular myth or graffiti, there is a mystery, or truth, that will always evade the documentarian and the audience." – Bill Daniel

TESTIMONIALS

i found a dvd in a pile of cds that someone returned to me, thinking it was mine. it wasn't, and i had never heard of your film. i watched it two days ago and it has been with me since. thank you for it. i was really taken with the beautiful footage and amazing interviews that you shot. as a budding filmmaker i was/am really inspired. thanks, sam

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Bozo arrived today...and my wife and I sat down and watched it...We love the movie.  It's an amazing work that has tons of message/meaning to us.  It's going to be one that we watch again and again...so I might order a couple more copies!

Thomas

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Looking forward to watching the movie again-its still my all time favorite film, hands down!

Scott, Milwaukee

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Just wanted to let you know that i think the movie is incredible and i have probably watched it 5 times already. John D.

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So I found your film a few months ago, thought it looked really badass, then for some reason never laid down my $18 for it. About ten minutes ago I ran across an article in an old Cometbus (ok, really in the anthology) by the same name and realized "holy shit, it's the same guy from like fifteen years ago". My mind was fucking blown. I just bought your film.

Mike

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"Who Is..." changed my life. I am a 10 year conductor for CSX and ever since I saw your film I've been benching and writing on box cars. I absolutely love it.

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bill,

i got back to europe after surviving deep blues 2008. upon my return i discovered your parcel on my doorstep. i cracked open a cold one and watched the film...4 times. i'm weary of the inflationary term "independent film" but "who is bozo texino" re-installed some faith in it. hands down the best film i've seen in years. raw, poetic & intelligent. i'll do my best to promote the hell out of it. i'll be living in a trailer in the woods in california next year...i'd love to invite you to come out for drinks and conversation.

respect

m.

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I love the movie and have told many people! Someone liked it so much they stole it from me, so I need a new one :) thank you!

Johanna

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I came to this purchase in a weird sort of way and have a few questions relating to that.

I was trying to buy a t-shirt for some friends of mine that had a photo of poutine on it and searched ebay for "poutine." The search returned a result with a book called Le laboratoire des poisons : De Lénine à Poutine. As in Vladimir Putin, not Canadian french fries. The for sale item also referenced Bonifacio III. BUT it had a photo of Who is Bozo Texino. From there, I found your website. So, although I'm actually glad I found your documentary instead of a poutine t-shirt, what does Bozo Texino have to do with the Pope in 607 or executions in the USSR???

Thanks, Nicole

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Hi Bill

I just stumbled across your stuff and the doco. It’s a fascinating subject. Lets face it Bill, popular culture is a sea of shit, but stuff like yours and the above mentioned, they are shining beacons.

Take care Frank M. Insurance Manager

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As a retired locomotive engineer I saw thousands of the drawings like the ones in your film.

I always wondered what the story was behind them but it was not until I viewed your film that I finally got my answer.

Your film will have an honored place in my collection.

Wonderful job and thanks a million!

Jack Roy

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Dear Mr Daniel,

I came across your website when I googled 'nomad filmmaking'. Are your films going to be screened in Canada, more specifically in Calgary?? Also, what challenges did you face in terms of pre-production, production, and post-production, while creating your films? Are the software tools that you used adequate enough? Is there anything left to be desired?

Thanks, Rey M.

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Got the dvd - it is just right! Had heard of it through two young hitch-hikers I picked up. They raved about it.... Thank you! Jeannette

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I grew up over in Lubbock and spent some time doing warehouse work over on the east side back in the 70's. I used to see Bozo Texino everywhere. Haven't thought about it in years. Then the other day I was reading some stuff about train car tagging and it brought back the memory. I plugged "Bozo Texino" into a google search and well you know . . . I'm looking forward to watching your film. William W

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everything was great. i have watched it 3 times so far. im very impressed. such great footage and some old monikers too. been into this type of thing since 93. this has been the best project i have seen documenting the streaks.

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i used to own this movie but it got lost...i love this movie!

kevin

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I'm watching a copy of your film in the DVD format with the wonderful true testimonial booklet inside. this is a wonderful work of craft and art, a telling of living legends, and myths gone by. I was over at lee's earlier and he had a copy laying out. reading everything cracked me up and of course, I've heard stories of the making for some time now. I'm glad to see a fruition take place and hold a hard copy of an indelible, historical footprint of lore and legend, mythical in wonder, discovery, and proportions. you've made a real jewel of celluloid and HD. visual imprints for now and forever. this is great work I must say.

Growing up in the 1950's and 1960's we traveled all over the states by car. hardly any of it ever on the interstate system. I have fond memories and images of the hobo way of life as we often witnessed the open cars with numerous guest travelers. our waves were always greeted with a genuine, fond response. take care and travel well. regards - russell s

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I arrived at work this morning, work being a certain little shop in Seattle, WA called Archie McPhee, to find an unassuming little package waiting for me. I couldn't have been more excited to discover that it was your documentary patiently waiting to be viewed. And view it I did, the very moment I got home from work this evening. Suffice it to say, it was wonderful. I don't quite know how to put it into words without sounding silly or hopelessly romantic. I love trains, I love graffiti, and I am absolutely captivated by hobo monikers. Seeing those monikers drawn out before my eyes like that was like watching folk tales come to life. Each time a different moniker appeared on the screen I couldn't help but gasp with delight. And hearing those men speak. . well, there just aren't words to express how marvelous that was. It was just awesome. That world is so uniquely American without feeling the least bit jingoistic. I really like that. Your film was a marvelous glimpse into a world that I've only ever experienced through the other side of my camera. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of the time, energy, and love that you put into that film.

Yours, M.

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I'm really happy that this movie is going to get shown here. Such an amazing and inspiring project. I have a good friend who rides trains in the states so this film is really special to me. He is younger and mixed up in more of the partying fighting side of things. He is a good guy and I really wish that he could become more of the guy that is shown in the movie. It's a tough life and I've seen how much it can wear a person down. I've seen some other train movies and they were really hokey. Anyway, I respect what you have done and happy that this is a part of the world. Talk soon.

Ryan

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Really enjoyed your film. I should say enjoy, because I seem to be watching it over and over.

Matt

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I just wanted you to know how much I love Who is Bozo Texino. If it isn't the most beautiful film I ever saw, my memory is going away!

Of course that is the opinion of the beholder, who has always been in love with railroads and also has taken lots of B&W photos over the years, which seem best to capture the aura of railroading.

I grew up near the B&M, and never could stay away from the Fitchburg mainline or the barely-there branches, like the Central Mass line. Even if there were no trains, just the feel of being out on the line has always been a high for me.

I tried to get work on the B&M after finishing high school, but those days weren't good for that aspiration.

I did ride one freight in the early '70s, from Ayer Mass to Portland Maine, so those on board shots had a familiar feel to them. So beautiful, and so dangerous. It didn't take long to get the idea of staying away from the door, after getting spotted by cops, then almost getting my face smashed by a big rock some kid threw that banged against the back wall of the car. They were aiming at me!

So in an idle moment at my conventional job, I was just thinking about Bozo Texino, who's drawing I've seen countless times, and decided to look that name up on the google. Lo and behold, a documentary on the very subject!

So I bought it, and was NOT disappointed! So many of those other drawings, like Herby and Colossus of Roads, I have seen many times. It was very cool to see the actual artists.

Also though, the 'bos and their philosophies, were great to see and hear. Seems today, everybody is locked down in these lives of stoking the death machine, making trillionaires out of billionaires, being afraid to be free....it's just wrong, and a disgrace to all Creation, whatever that means!

So I'm going to buy some more copies of your incredibly moving movie, and share them with some people who might get something from it, including my Mom, and my eighty-something uncle Bob, people who have done some living and still believe in freedom, and some younger folks too.

Thanks again for the wonderful film! Gordon

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I've seen it already, just love the film. Thank you for making it. I talk about it all the time.

and good luck on the 17th, Santiago is a cool cat.

-e

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Also, I'm sure that you've gotten a lot positive feedback about this movie.  But I'd like to share with you a thought from a conversation that I had with a friend after seeing your movie: "Seeing Bozo in action on those grainers was a total reaffirmation of everything in life that I love and believe in.  I feel like the world is still O.K."  No joke.

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bill your movie is so great really i can't stop watching it beautiful beautiful really thanks for those images jp

p.s. do we see margaret kilgallen once in the movie?

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I've always been a scribbler but suppressed the urges until recently I got into wheat pasting and making stencils to alleviate boredom. I was volunteering at a community free bike shop when some young hobo's from California stopped in to check it out. (Ogden is a UP hub) I showed them around a bit, fed them and let them stay at the shop for a few days. They sent me Mostly True and some of their original artwork in return for my hospitality and it has come to reason that I must have this DVD for my viewing pleasure.

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I really respect you for taking the time out of your life to bring this otherwise hidden world out into the open! I am getting really sick and tired of the usual cookie cutter "movies" that Hollywood puts out anymore... I want to discover as much about different types of "Real Folks" and their routines (behind the scenes) as I can before I leave this planet! One day I'd like to take off on an adventure, if I could just tear myself away from my Security Blanket (although sometimes our security blankest are not really as safe as we believe them to be.) Thanks again Bill! Your friend, Tony

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thought i'd let you know how much we enjoyed the movie... i watched it with a room full of friends in missoula montana, a house just off the railroad tracks that go through town. the next day we were excited to find the shoulders of a coaltrain portrait and a "bozo dunce" parody on the twenty or so cars they leave out there as a sound buffer. definitely gave me some new eyes on those old things, not to mention a 'three-mile stare' towards the mountains and the tracks that lead out of town. i read about your project on bozo texino last fall in this old zine-reader collection called factsheet five, published 1997, and started doodling the character on things never expecting to see it again. riding my bicycle across the south and its deserts this winter, i even graffitied it a couple times, and then was surprised to see mention of you and the documentary in a ART LIES magazine i found in austin. the bozo cartoon had already taken on these legendary proportions as i was on the bike, cowboy camping across texas, and it was a pleasure to get the whole story from there. i don't think anybody could've captured the feeling and the sights of a huge empty country better.

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Watching your film in Rotterdam was like finding a jewel. it's great to see that cinema can still take this kind of travels. Vlado Skafar, Program Director of Isola Cinema FF

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I purchased the DVD when I first saw the film screened at the Trunk Space, in Phoenix, a couple of years ago. I was the guy who asked you if, in your years making the film, you'd run across any echoes of the Wobblies. That evening remains among the most treasured of my serendipities. Peace,Steve

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it struck me that the rapid Sandino graphic described from Nicaraguan revolution is exactly the graphic reproduced in Bill Daniel's film "Bozo Texino" -- image search that and you will see what i mean... it's an interesting connection between an intentionally "cryptic" demotic graffiti and a distant revolution.... "Who is Bozo Texino?" -- it's Augusto Sandino. glad that is cleared up at last! abrazos, /a

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Your Documentary inspired me to hunt and preserve monikers.

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I finnaly got the Bozo Texino Dvd... and I have to say... THANKYOU SO MUCH! Man alive, you have no idea how much that movie made my day.

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we were reviewing proposals for our "mobilizing the community through the arts" initiative recently, including one from IAIA (institute of american indian arts) in santa fe. they proposed a project documenting apache cowboy water tank graffiti, contextualizing it historically, interviewing elders who worked the roundups, working with disenfranchised youth. my panel was having a hard time getting their head around it and so i told them about "who is bozo texino" and described the cultural significance of relative obscurity. as native people, they picked up on it right away. so, here's to bozo - you never know where he might turn up.

Reuben

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Who Is Bozo Texino? is a great American movie, and its greatness is tied up very closely with its American-ness. With this brilliant experimental documentary, self-styled hobo film-maker Daniel places himself firmly in the bootprints of Jack London, Jack Kerouac, Walt Whitman, Woody Guthrie - a fine, long tradition of American artists who look for their inspiration to the marginal, the underclass, the vagabond and the outcast. Nominally a chronicle/survey/history of boxcar graffiti (a tradition as old as the railroad itself) and the men who create it, Who Is Bozo Texino? soon transcends its narrow subject-matter to become a gloriously rough-edged elegy for an America which is being swept away before our eyes.

Unlike the overwhelming majority of documentaries - even entertaining recent examples like Murderball, Dogtown and Z-Boys and Stoked - Daniel's film manages a near-perfect union of radical form and radical content, And it does so in consistently accessible style: at first you're intrigued by the stunning monochrome images captured by his self-effacing, sensitively-handled camera(s); by the startling kineticism of his fluent editing style; by the sheer range of voices, music and sound-effects we hear as he tracks down a series of grizzled hobos and wisdom-dispensing graffiti-'markers.'

Then you realise that, just as these men have always instinctively rejected authority and convention, Daniel (who has made a fantastic old-school poster for the movie) has likewise embraced the unorthodox in his style of film-making - even down to his choice of title and running-time. Indeed, in less than an hour Daniel manages to say more about life, art, America and the simple joy of film-making than most directors manage in decades. Neil Young

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My interest was aroused when I watched a DVD called "Beautiful Losers". I then googled HoboArt and saw your video trailer, went to Amazon that said the video was not available, and went back to google and found your site. It is always interesting how these connections are made and I thought you would enjoy hearing this one. You are my idle. I always wanted to do what you did. Thanks for allowing others to experience it through your eyes. Mike.