When I spent several weeks of 2010 April in Chicago, some of the most memorable moments came from when I walked around here and there in the city. I remember the Swedish Bakery and several other interesting places I came across as walking along the streets and alleys of the Andersonville neighborhood during one cloudy evening. I remember those lovely and expensive houses I saw while sauntering in the Gold Coast neighborhood during one chilly afternoon. And I also remember well a number of gorgeous modern architectures I checked one by one as loitering around here and there in the downtown area of the city.
These and other memories of Chicago were somehow vividly evoked inside my mind as I watched documentary film “The World Before Your Feet”, which is about the personal journey of one plain guy who has walked more than 8,000 miles (about 12,800 km) in New York City for more than six years. As observing him doing far more than merely walking along those numerous streets and alleys of New York City, I became more curious and amused about him and his ongoing journey, and the documentary eventually made me reflect more on my brief but wonderful experience of exploring many different areas of Chicago by my feet.
After the opening scene showing its hero walking in around various area of New York City, the documentary lets us get to know him bit by bit. Although he was initially a civil engineer, Matt Green became tired of being stuck in office cubicle for the rest of his life, and he got more motivated when he and his younger brother respectively experienced a nearly fatal experience. After discerning how life can be cut short at any moment, he eventually decided to go for what makes him happy, and that was how he came to focus on walking.
At first, Green tried to walk from the East Coast to the West Coast with a few equipments including a perambulator to carry his small luggage instead of his back, and we see him eagerly showing and telling his long but rewarding walking experience to a bunch of kids. As he walked down roads, he often spotted beautiful moments to behold and be photographed, and we accordingly get a number of lovely nature photographs including the one showing a vast field full of yellow flowers.
After successfully finishing his transcontinental journey, Green looked for another walking mission, and he soon found it. He decided to walk all the alleys and streets of the five boroughs of New York City, and the documentary shows us how steadily and diligently he has walked around here and there in the city during next 6 years. We see him walking around in some remote areas of Staten Island. We observe him moving around in some livelier areas of Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. And we later see him strolling in some busier regions of Manhattan.
Although he has been technically unemployed, Green has been leading a modest way of living as wholly focusing on his walking project. He has friends and some other people willing to allow him stay at their residences for a few days, and he sometime earns some small income via taking care of houses and pets. In case of a number of different cats taken care of by him, they provide some of the most amusing moments in the documentary, and I was particularly tickled by a naughty grey cat named Mufasa.
While he seems to be just covering one block after another, Green usually does some research on where he is going to walk around, and that is how he often spots interesting things during his walk. Along with him, we observe several different barber shops which distinguish themselves a bit via deliberate misspelling, and we also look at a number of ‘Churchagogues’, which were once synagogues but are changed into Christian churches. Although these buildings are modified a lot on the surface, there are still some traces of their old history, and Green is willing to be our tour guide to point out those curious remnants.
We also meet several other people who have been as passionate about walking around in the New York City as Green, and they certainly have some interesting things to tell us. We are introduced to a black writer who talks about how he has to be more careful about his attire and appearance while walking outside, and then we meet an old professor who already accomplished his own walking project over the city some time ago.
In the meantime, the documentary keeps providing us engaging moments to be savored, and Green provides thoughtful comments from time to time. We see a bunch of different memorial murals on the 9/11 terror attack in 2001, and Green points out how diverse these murals are in terms of style and content. When he visits a big tree known as the oldest tree in the city, he muses on how much time has passed around the tree, and you may wonder how many more centuries it will have witnessed.
Although it loses its focus a bit during its second part, “The World Before Your Feet” is still a charming and intimate documentary, and director Jeremy Workman, who also produced and edited his documentary, did a competent job of presenting his hero and New York City with interest and affection. Sure, New York City has never been a boring place to us, but the documentary presents to us a fresh perspective on the city via its eccentric hero, and you may want to walk around in the city when the documentary is over.