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Desire and Discovery - A Film Maker's Journey
by Norman Schreiber

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A film by Albert Maysles

"The contemplation of things as they are, without error
or confusion, without substitution or imposure, is in itself
a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.
-Sir Francis Bacon

"Time has proved more and more that we do not love each
other simply because we do not know each other well enough.
This lack of solidarity stems from lack of knowledge: that is
why I am determined more than ever not to spread that
fictitious world born of the author's imagination, but rather
to increase knowledge of the real world. The time will come
when we shall go to see what a man does in his minute daily
actions, and to demonstrate the same kind of interest which
the Greeks had in going to see their dramas.
-Cesare Zavattini

Film Synopsis:

Candid and direct, Albert Maysles wishes to document the very
complexities that come to be the key moments of life. Against
the dramatic background of the trains of the world, he will film
five or six separate and varied short stories that will illuminate
truth-baring moments. The difference between this film and other
story-collection films is that Maysles may tell some of the stories
separately; or he may repeatedly cut from within one to another –
thereby relying on central themes of community, shared emotion
and recognizable circumstance to carry the viewer between

As a central linking filmic image, the train affords the obvious
sense of movement and connection between the elements of the
story because the train is a microcosm of the world beyond it.
The train is life, people in transit, arrivals and departures; the train
is continuous, it carries a human cargo asleep or awake; the train
is mystery, it is flight and salvation to some, exile to others, love
and death and hope to still others.

Strangers, fellow passengers on a train, who are you? What did
you leave behind? When you get off, what lies before you?

If life is a journey, we are all fellow travelers. If life is a train…
People don't live in isolation but in societies; still societies are
great isolators of men. Yet when I have journeyed on trains I
have seen people come together who in no other way would
possibly meet. In the happenstance of coming together as
strangers they discovered an intimacy found especially among
strangers: normal conventions dissolved, passengers opened
their lives. Maybe it was because they would return to separate
lives once the journey was over or because the train held them
in a strange limbo-- a moment of truth between stations, between
real life and real life.

I want to make a film about trains, really about the unity of
humankind. Films can have the power of getting viewers to see
themselves as they experience directly the feelings, hopes and
problems of others. And through this process of identification,
hopefully, they may then feel less absurd, less alone as they
anticipate new possibilities of fellowship.

I intend to create in this direct cinema feature a tapestry of
universally understandable episodes, key moments of decision
or truth, a tribute to our common emotions, proof of our common
humanity, cause for empathy. In short, a real life epic.

There is an atmosphere peculiar to trains which is unreal and
enticingly intimate. It may be merely a simple gesture, like the
instant recognition of passengers and passersby as they wave
to each other. It may be hearing a stranger characterizing his
life in a cogent anecdote. Or it may be an unexpected romantic
interlude. On trains we are swept up in a sense of belonging to
a community which transcends normal barriers.

Albert Maysles