LA CAMIONETA: THE JOURNEY OF ONE AMERICAN SCHOOL BUS tells us about the after-life of many American school buses. Evidently, these buses, still in pretty good working order, are auctioned off, in many cases to Latinos who have come to the U.S. precisely to purchase them and then drive them back to... Guatemala! Is this the only country south of the border all that interested in buying our used school buses? As we don't hear otherwise, it would appear so.
Mark Kendall, shown at left, has done a nice job of organizing his movie so that one of his and his narrator's themes -- the connections forged between people who have ridden in the same vehicle (the other is the utter precariousness of the lives of those men who drive these buses in Guatemala) -- is picked up at the film's beginning, shown now-and-then throughout, and then used for a quietly effective finale. Otherwise the director relatively effectively cuts between scenes of driving the bus to its destination and what happens to it, once there: design, paint job, chroming, and the like. We also learn that simply driving through Mexico is a crap shoot in which the driver's life is at risk.
Unfortunately, things don't get any better once the drivers reach Guatelmala. In the course of the documentary, we learn that, since 2006, nearly 1,000 bus drivers and and fare-collectors have been murdered for either refusing or being unable to pay the extortion money demanded by local gangs. One news report informs us that a recent attack "could be the result of not paying extortionists their Christmas bonus." (Viewers may have the sense that no irony at all is intended here.) Later we witness the police dragging off a bus the body of a dead man, perhaps the driver or the fare-collector.