Written by S. Bowyer

 

 

     Craigslist Joe was a documentary of a social experiment designed by Joseph Garner. His aim was to live 31 days, traveling America, only supporting himself via opportunities and good-willed people he met on Craigslist. He wanted to know if good community was still ripe in today's world, so hired cameraman Kevin Flint. Garner left his home with only a few conveniences: his laptop (to use Craigslist), a new phone and email (to respond to ads), his passport, a toothbrush and the one set of clothes on his back. No money, no food, no pre-made contacts -- everything on-the-fly.

      The documentary captures the opportunities he took, as well as the people he met who shared their stories of difficulty or success, spanning across New York, Chicago, Tallahassee, New Orleans, Portland, San Francisco, and across the border to Mexico. While the camera filmed over 80 hours of footage, only an hour was kept for the movie. He even got to meet the creator of Craigslist, Craig Newmark.

 

 

      I found the documentary inspiring, as Garner met people from different walks of life, different social statuses, and alternate viewpoints. It was a varied group of people who I really wanted to listen to and understand. Some opinions would agree, others do not. 

      Drew Prindle of Digital Trends wrote, "The doc definitely has a few flaw, but they are mostly overshadowed by its numerous strengths," while Ernest Hardy of Village Voice said "Garner's experiment is somewhat limited since Garner, a young, middle-class white man enjoys social privileges that many impoverished individuals don't share". 

      While watching this documentary, consider how the people he met would have reacted if he had been of a different ethnicity, had more money, a fancy car, or even if he'd grown up living out of soup kitchens. From what his new acquaintances showed, I think some might have snobbed him had he not been a "middle-class white man", however my thought is most of them would have treated him no different. They were too interested in sharing their own stories and wanted to help someone, and seemed mostly blind to who he was. Maybe in future the producers could sponsor another attempt featuring someone who is an older, lower-class person who is not of "white descent" as a contrast. Would they react different, or is it the idea that when people aim to make someone's life easier, they do not see colour, agenda or monetary value? 

 

Public reaction was mostly positive, people commenting: 

      "Craigslist Joe demonstrates to all those who doubt the basic goodness of human beings that each and every one of us possesses beauty and a fundamental dignity. The characters and their interactions pass as at least exceptionally genuine and not a moment of camp or scripting was evident and this with the ordinariness of the content gives it power. The subject matter, alienation and the vanishing of real community (in the U.S. and the industrialized world at large), born by distrust and distraction, is eminently relevant and the film works very well by instead of bemoaning the fact showing the conditions for healing."

      "I think I liked this documentary so much because it was more of an experiment for a given hypothesis rather than an investigation trying to convince you of something."

      "Joseph Garner is a modern hero. He shows admirable tolerance, an ability to suspend judgement, and the compassion of someone whose ego hasn't replaced his heart. I laughed, I cried, I felt so inspired by the end of this movie that I wanted to go out in the street and start hugging people. I have grown too cynical, and Joseph Garner reminded me that cynicism is a dangerous stance, putting our own humanity at risk."

      "Watch this film as even though I have rated it 3 does not mean it didn't entertain me in parts and you should make up your own desicion, it's not like I just wasted the last 2 hours of my life completely. However this film had the opportunity to be so much more. The premise for the doc is great, a man who essentially is going to live and die by the site Craigslist to acquire food, bedding, transport and companionship. It's not that Joe doesn't set out with these intentions and deliver it's just the fact that Joe is the most boring human being ever to be followed by a camera. "

      "This showed that there are still people out there who are willing to help strangers out the kindness of their heart. I think it may have gone a bit different had there been no camera or if this had been hidden camera. People he just met were too anxious to let him spend the night at their place, and at one point a female who initially said "no" went back and let him spend the night. I think knowing it was a documentary people felt a little safer and more willing to lend a hand."

 

 

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