Docutah film ‘Hitchhiking to the Edge of Sanity’ is a gripping story of adventure

ST. GEORGE — In the tumultuous political climate of the early 1970s, two young men from Kansas decided to travel throughout Europe and Africa. Armed with a Nikon F camera and a Smith Corona Skywriter typewriter, friends Steve Ewert and Dick Russell set off on a world tour in hopes of documenting their adventures in articles.

Headshot of filmmaker Scott Petersen, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Scott Petersen, St. George News

Though some of their stories were published, a new documentary entitled “Hitchhiking to the Edge of Sanity” by filmmaker Scott Petersen brings their epic tale to film for the first time.

The film will screen Wednesday and Thursday at the Docutah International Documentary Film Festival and Petersen will be attending and hosting a question-and-answer session after the screenings.

See the trailer in media player top of this article.

“Hitchhiking to the Edge of Sanity” is a tale of danger, disillusionment, difficulty and friendship told as Ewert and Russell recount crossing thousands of miles in the Sahara desert.

This is filmmaker Petersen’s second trip to Docutah, he said. The first film he screened at Docutah, “The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz,” won the festival’s Raven Award for best editing. The film told the story of master potter Juan Quezada from Mexico.

For his latest project, Petersen said, he wanted to do a story that was closer to home. Fortunately for him, Ewert happens to be his uncle. Even more fortunately, the entire trip was meticulously recorded in Russell’s journal entries and Ewert’s photographs.

Petersen said his uncle had told him bits and pieces of the amazing journey previously, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that Petersen began to see the potential for a documentary film.

“I like stories of adventure,” Petersen said. “I like stories of people doing something different and unique.”

Promotional image for the documentary film “Hitchhiking to the Edge of Sanity,” location and date not specified | Image courtesy of Scott Petersen, St. George News

Throughout their time in Europe, Ewert and Russell attended French President Charles De Gaulle’s memorial service at Notre Dame, met famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and tooled around Paris with writer James Jones. They spent time with American diplomats, had their car stolen twice and were nearly arrested in Amsterdam, according to information material about the movie.

But it was their time traveling in Africa from the upheaval in revolutionary hot spot Algiers then across the Sahara to Ghana that was the most dangerous, difficult and intriguing.

Ewert and Russell’s story certainly qualified as unique. Unique enough for Petersen to tell their story on film.

By day, Petersen is an editor for the Grammy Awards show, he said, adding that he is very comfortable with the editing part of creating documentaries. It is a medium he loves for its ability to reach audiences and tell them a story about people they may have never heard of before or a side of their lives they may never have seen.

“These are people (the audience) probably doesn’t know so you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Petersen said.

The film will screen Wednesday at 10:15 a.m. and Thursday at noon at the Eccles Fine Arts Center on the Dixie State University Campus, 225 S. 700 East in St. George.

The Docutah International Documentary Film Festival features over 60 documentary films from 15 different countries. The festival runs until Saturday with movie screenings and special events throughout the week. More information about the festival can be found here.

Event details

  • What: “Hitchhiking to the Edge of Sanity” Docutah screenings.
  • When: Wednesday, Sept. 6, 10:15 a.m. and Thursday, Sept. 7, noon.
  • Where: Eclles Fine Arts Center, 225 S. 700 East, St. George.
  • Cost: Varies.
  • Purchase tickets: Online | By telephone at 435-652-7800 | Or at the central ticket office at the Cox Performing Arts Center, 350 S.700 East, St. George open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Email: hreina@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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