Starring: Dave Torstenson, Charlie Pecoraro, Pete Sottnik
Directed by: Ryan Steven Green
Written by: Ryan Steven Green (debut) and Charlie Pecoraro (debut)

Some of the best types of documentaries are those hold a magnifying glass to interesting or relatively unknown subcultures. In “Circle the Wagen,” Dave Torstenson buys his dream car, a 1972 Volkswagen Bus on eBay. The problem is, the bus is rusted out, beat up, and in Iowa, far from his home in California. To try to get the bus home, Dave and his friend Charlie enlist the help of a group of Volkswagen owners from an online community who are willing to go above and beyond to help the boys get “The Croc” (the name given to the bus) home in any way they can, with their only commonality being the love for the same car.

As a subject, the Volkswagen community is particularly interesting to examine.  While it is certainly fascinating to look at why people are attracted to VW’s in the first place, “Circle the Wagen” mainly focuses on the goodwill of those within the community. The film shows that owning a Volkswagen makes you a part of a weird little club and once you are in, perfect strangers are like family. It’s astonishing to watch some of the things these VW owners do to help when “The Croc” inevitably breaks down at every turn. The film is also successful in using Dave’s penchant for starting projects and not finishing to give the film an emotional element to make the viewer really root for him to get the bus back home.

A few of the elements of film don’t work as well others. Some stop motion animation works with varying degree and there’s a voiceover present that seems unnecessary.  But as soon as the crew gets on the road, “Circle the Wagen,” is immensely enjoyable, funny, and engaging, all pushed forward by its charismatic leads. Director Ryan Steven Green, as well as the stars do a great job of unearthing the passion that folks have for the Volkswagen automobile, and revealing the compassion, kindheartedness and the best elements of the human condition in helping a couple of like-minded strangers who are in need.

“Circle the Wagen” screened as a part of Austin Film Festival 2013.

For more Austin Film Festival Coverage, click here. 

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