"A Hypnotic, rail-rattling tone poem of subversive wayfarer wisdom." - Sacramento News & Review
The subterranean and uniquely American folkloric practice of hobo and rail worker graffiti is discovered in this gritty and picaresque artist-made film. WHO IS BOZO TEXINO? ostensibly chronicles a search for the story behind a legendary boxcar graffiti---a simple sketch of a blank-staring cowboy character with the scrawled moniker "Bozo Texino." In the course of this rambling search, the film uncovers a little-known and almost-extinct subculture and suggests that the moniker drawing tradition is now being kept alive by a new generation of train artists.
In both its content and form, this rough-hewn, black-and-white film explores how storytelling and written graffiti practices express the yearnings of wanderlust, the ethical code of tramps, refusal and resignation to daily labor, and the creation of outsider identity. The film resonates with social misfit themes that have seen rich expression in American literature from Jack London, to the Beats, and today in a zine-making freight punk subculture.
Shooting over 16 years on freight riding trips across the West, Daniel and his trusty Bolex 16mm camera interviews some of the last remaining old timers who have kept the folk art of "monikers" alive. Since its completion in 2005, Who is Bozo Texino? has screened widely to diverse audiences, from MOMA and film festivals world-wide, to hundreds of DIY spaces. Who is Bozo Texino? is recognized as a pioneering work on this previously overlooked subject, and has become a cult film among freight hoppers, graffiti fans, and punk folklorists.
"Bill Daniel's homegrown epic is as kinetic and raggedly beautiful as the trains he hopped to make it. Using the search for the origin of a near mythical example of railroad graffiti as a point of departure, Bill made a film about freedom as literal passage across the land. Corporations brand things to say they own them, but there are ways in which humans have marked things to say they can't be owned." -- Jem Cohen