“When you die, your body dies, but your being doesn’t die. Your being, your energy, lives on inside everyone.” These words are a rather spiritual way to kick off a documentary about a school bus and yet somewhat fitting. La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus begins by introducing the audience to a simple bus. It could be any old school bus, but one is chosen to travel from the US to Guatemala and undergo a massive transformation for the sole sake of being used for public transportation.
Director Mark Kendall’s documentary doesn’t so much tell the story of a school bus so much as it depicts the lives of all those surrounding the bus, as well as the conditions they live in. Life is anything but easy for the people who buy, fix, and travel on these buses through Guatemala. Their lives are plagued by bills and gangsters who threaten them daily.
His decision to use this school bus as a veil for his goals to explore Guatemala’s socioeconomic state is a thin one, often left aside for the sake of essentially performing an anthropological study on the people of Guatemala. He reaches far beyond the grasp of this sole American school bus that the film introduces at the start, investigating the way the police handle threats to other buses among other things.