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The inspiring documentary “Along the Rail” premieres at the 2024 New Jersey International Film Festival!

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By Morgan Kalmbach

originally published: 25.05.2024

The inspiring documentary “Along the Rail” premieres at the 2024 New Jersey International Film Festival!

Art can depict many things and use many media. Some artists use subjects such as cities, animals and people. For Craig Wallace Dale, this choice of subject matter has changed over the years and currently lies with graffiti of railroad tracks. Jonathan Harkels Along the rail shows and celebrates this journey that has lasted over three decades.

Along the rail introduces its viewers to the focus of the film with the compositionally fascinating first shot of the rail. The film itself focuses on Craig Wallace Dale, a photographer who started with more classical photography methods and, after a series of unfortunate events, decided to start photography again with a new subject: graffiti on railroad tracks. To complement his new project, Dale also developed his own cyanotype printing device, which is no easy task.

At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Dale's rather standard portrait work and learn that he sold all of his possessions and bought a one-way ticket to New York City. This inclusion not only introduces the viewer to Dale's work, but also offers them their first glimpse into Dale's dedication and love for his work. Harkel uses more standardly shot footage of Dale's work, while Dale himself talks about how his work was more classic and typical at the time. Additionally, we learn that Dale has expanded his work to include boating and other areas, showing his openness to different subjects and projects. After suffering severe health problems, Dale was forced to give up his portrait business, but he didn't let that discourage him and began attending a teaching program.

In his hectic new life, he found a way to pursue his love of photography by using his cell phone to take photos of the graffiti on the side of the train tracks he traveled to work and school. According to Dale, his inability to control the outcome of the photo due to the delay caused by the bullet train and the cell phone camera felt similar to the little control he had over his life at the time. Despite this, Dale persevered and believed in his work. As a viewer, these thoughts and words from Dale clearly showed more of his personality and his ability to be positive during a time when it may have been difficult to maintain faith.

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As if Dale's intelligence and talent weren't already sufficiently showcased with his work in the film, we also learn that Dale has built his own cyanotype printer alongside his new graffiti project. Dale explains that he wanted to use an older method to honor his subject. For the audience, this is further proof of his love of photography and his creative spirit.

Dale himself is an optimistic and passionate person. The film shows his personality as someone who lives out his passion while also being a humorous and friendly person. His love for photography, even with the simplest subjects, is entertaining to listen to. In addition, his explanations are easy to understand. As someone with little knowledge of the printing process, it was not difficult to follow and share Dale's enthusiasm and love for his craft. However, thanks to Harkel's precise editing and interesting B-roll footage, Dale's story is also well portrayed.

The clips used of Dale, but also of his work and the routes he rides on are fascinating. The film is shot in such a way that it feels like a personal conversation with Dale. By using closer shots and many eye-level shots, we as the audience get a closer look at Dale's work in a way that is inviting and calming. Harkel's editing choices are also idiosyncratic and well-calculated, for example the fact that only sparse footage of trains was used until Dale himself started talking about his graffiti project, which marked our entry into the new era of Dale's photography. Harkel's simple editing style and calmer music allow the audience to focus on our subject and appreciate his story, rather than being distracted.

Jonathan Harkels Along the rail tells the inspiring and comforting story of photographer Craig Wallace Dale and his career and how his hardships have shaped his work. The film itself is a beautiful tribute to Dale's perseverance and open-mindedness even in his most difficult moments. But most importantly, the film conveys the idea that art has no single subject and that there is always a subject, like graffiti, waiting to be captured by the right artist.

Along the rail Screens in 2024 New Jersey International Film Festival At Sunday, June 2, as part of Shorts Program #1. The film will be available for online viewing for 24 hours that day and will then be shown in person at 5:00 p.m. at 105 Voorhees Hall/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. Along the rail director Jonathan Harkel and Craig Wallace Dale will be on site for a question and answer session after the personal demonstration! Tickets are available Here.

The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in collaboration with the Rutgers University Film Studies Program, presents the 2024 New Jersey International Film Festival, celebrating its 29th anniversary. The NJIFF competition will take place Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, May 31-June 9, 2024, and will be a hybrid competition with online and in-person screenings at Rutgers University. All films will be available virtually via video on demand for 24 hours on their screening day. VOD start times are at midnight Eastern Time. Any general admission ticket or festival pass purchased is valid for both the virtual and in-person screenings. In-person screenings will take place at Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ beginning at 5:00 or 7:00 p.m. on their screening day. note: The June 1 screenings will be held at Milledoler Hall #100/Rutgers University, 520 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ. PlusThe NJIFF is very proud to announce that acclaimed singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler will be in concert on Saturday, June 15th at 7pm at Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. General admission = $15 per program; All-Access Festival Pass = $120; Personal student ticket only = $10 per program.; General admission for the Marissa Nadler concert = $25.

More information can be found here: