The gentle chirping of birds is audible through the moody melody as a singular rider heads into the glowing dawn haze breaking over a cactus-lined desert road.
Then: “Man is born free, yet he is everywhere in chains.”
The Jean-Jacques Rousseau quote hangs like a rude guest against this backdrop of tranquility. So why is it there?
The Freedom Machine, written and directed by Abel Gonzalez, wants to discover the truth and answer a burning question—if there are others, like MotoGeo's Jamie Robinson, who find freedom in spite of the shackles of family, career and other adult responsibilities. For our host, it’s his “steel-framed dragon, the perfect centaur” that is his trusted host of happiness, but what about the people of Baja California? Are they free?
Jamie doesn’t simply ride on and off the roads. Robinson also interacts with the locals and enjoys their culture. Mule riding in Sierra San Fernando, free diving with a particularly enticing female record-holder, throwing paint at sand dunes, and a dinner of beach-baked clams are only a few of the experiences our exuberant host enjoys with childish glee.
But it’s awkward to ask certain people about freedom when you’re a tourist with means, and despite his overt, almost aggressive level of joy, he seems to notice that there’s something flawed about the question, something inherently self-centered about the search. This is when the philosophical gets a little more engaging and when it becomes easier to forgive how staged each encounter feels. Robinson reaches outside of himself to help.
Ever The Critic
My cynical-self acknowledges that virtual tourism always inspires future visitors. As well, the generosity shown to the orphanage was heart-warming, and it didn’t seem to have strings attached, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t complain about a couple things, so here goes.
First, I’m not a fan of the voice-over. It feels contrived and doesn’t give us a chance to think on our own. Second: sponsorship. We know who they are, but this level of product placement was distracting; Oscar-worthy wardrobe changes (especially the new t-shirt in almost every shot), obvious product close-ups and the overt promotion of the “New Ducati Scrambler…” (featuring almost every guest astride the ride), and it’s a definite reminder that the production was very much not free.
Let’s Leave On A Positive Note
It’s worth watching. The cinematography does Baja and its people justice. Intimate close-ups capture Robinson’s ability to quickly charm his guests; dramatic drone footage and sweeping panoramic shots keep the story moving and show off the beauty of the landscape.
In the end there is satisfaction. Robinson arrives at a new understanding, a fitting tribute to what he does best, and one that anyone could easily adopt. It’s likely what’s made him so popular and successful, and why this movie leaves us with a sense that everything is going to be okay. Ultimately. it’s not about finding the answer because the journey is the best part.