By Michael St. John
Sep 29, 2007 - 8:47:57 PM

HELLO AMERICA!  "Welcome Back Rider" is a documentary film that keeps you glued to the screen as it connects with a world that was ”“ that of the amusement park.  Producer Joanna Skye spent two years taking a collective look at the history of the amusement park that most of us eagerly looked forward in spending hours testing how brave we were when experiencing one of the death-defying rides. At an amusement park we witnessed the magic and wonder of things that we simply read about in books or sat in a Saturday matinee, spellbound watching a movie that removed us from a reality that many of us hungered to escape.  

When viewing “Rider” one quickly understands that the amusement park is definitely a part of Americana ”“ accompanied with men and women, visionaries, who pieced together their dream which might embrace the imagination of all Americans, allowing them to experience thrills and scenes they would never forget.  Skye highlights the Chicago World’s  Fair of 1893 where it all began ”“ then takes us through the Great Depression into the present day.  There was plenty of drama to keep you from dosing off ”“ the heartbreaking footage of some of the struggles faced by our visionaries and their undaunted determination to survive.  Then the painful acceptance of what had to be, Skye slowly unwraps the near graveyard remains of once alive parks; one quickly feels the lost of an old friend.  

One of the most fascinating aspects of this film is when Skye combines archival footage as early as 1901, home videos and colorful postcards of the parks that quickly educates as well as entertain.  Her usage of the personal journeys of our visionaries were brilliantly inserted affecting the entire movement and rhythm of the film ”“ it was impossible not to wish that we might again experience the thrills of the seemingly, unending, terrifying rollercoaster, the merry-go-round and all the other fun rides associated with an amusement part.

"Welcome Back Rider" is a powerful offering to those of us who love film and appreciate the impact it will, no doubt have, on the way we think and how we see ourselves in a constant changing culture which represents who we are as a people. Skye allows us to remember, look back and reminds us that we are a great country because of that freedom to move on, but not forget, only to continue to build, develop and create something even more thrilling and exciting.  The ride never ends, just takes on a new look.        




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