For his latest cinematic adventure, iconoclastic auteur Werner Herzog is tackling a subject close to his heart: his bond with travel writer Bruce Chatwin, who passed away in 1989 after privately fighting HIV for five years. The pair were already long-time friends at that point, but even decades after Chatwin’s death, Herzog’s affection and respect for the fellow artist remains deep. Chatwin is still considered one of the UK’s best loved authors, and his work, including seminal books like “The Songlines” and “In Patagonia,” has long been credited with helping to revive the once-staid genre of travel writing.
Per the film’s official synopsis: “Werner Herzog turns the camera on himself and his decades-long friendship with the late travel writer Bruce Chatwin, a kindred spirit whose quest for ecstatic truth carried him to all corners of the globe. Herzog’s deeply personal portrait of Chatwin, illustrated with archival discoveries, film clips, and a mound of ‘brontosaurus skin,’ encompasses their shared interest in aboriginal cultures, ancient rituals, and the mysteries stitching together life on earth.”
In an official statement, Herzog himself writes that “Chatwin was a writer like no other. He would craft mythical tales into voyages of the mind. In this respect, we found out we were kindred spirits: he as a writer, I as a filmmaker. In this film here, I will follow a similar erratic quest for wild characters, strange dreamers, and big ideas about the nature of human existence.” For Herzog, one of Chatwin’s most essential desires was to dig into the world of the “nomad,” often turning into one himself during his many quests for new material.
The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019, and later screened at the Sheffield Doc/Fest and the Telluride Film Festival, amongst others. Distributor Music Box Films previously distributed Dmitry Vasyukov and Herzog’s 2013 documentary “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga.”
Check out the first trailer for Werner Herzog’s “Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin,” available exclusively on IndieWire, below. Music Box Films opens the film at New York City’s Film Forum on Wednesday, April 8, with a national rollout to follow.