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‘On the Road’: Walter Salles Tells NYC Why a “Brazilian Without an American Passport” Was the Right Guy to Adapt the Seminal Kerouac Novel

'On the Road': Walter Salles Tells NYC Why a "Brazilian Without an American Passport" Was the Right Guy to Adapt the Seminal Kerouac Novel

On paper, Walter Salles, the beloved Brazilian filmmaker best known for the Che Guevara biopic “The Motocycle Diaries,” doesn’t seem like the ideal fit for helming the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s seminal American novel “On the Road.” But last Thursday, at a Midtown New York screening of the film hosted by the Peggy Siegal Company and IFC Films president Jonathan Sehring, the filmmaker made a good case for why he was the right guy for the job.

Standing like a proud dad next to two of the film’s stars, Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund, at the Dobly 88 screening room, Salles revealed in a pre-screening introduction that it was, in fact, his Brazilian upbringing that led him to admire Kerouac’s book so deeply.

“We were living under a military dictatorship,” Salles explained. “There was censorship in all art forms. Censorship in movies, censorship in theater, censorship in music. The freedom that we were seeking was not palpable. The first time I read ‘On the Road,’ I fell completely in love with those characters who were allowed to search for all the possible forms of freedom that you can envisage. Those characters that you see in the film became the heroes of my generation in Brazil, which is quite unexpected perhaps for some of you. I got reminded by this Tolstoy line that said, ‘If you do something, and it’s very specific to a culture, it may become very universal.’ Kerouac was being very universal, because he was talking about something that was very dear to him.”

READ MORE: Watch: Indiewire with Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and Walter Salles at AFI FEST for ‘On the Road’

IFC Films opens “On the Road” in select theaters Dec. 21. Go here for Indiewire’s review out of Cannes, where the film world premiered in May.

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