by Richard Propes - The Independent Critic
Narrated by Martin Sheen, Dreamland: Mark Twain's Journey to Jerusalem is that rare documentary feature that combines a rather straightforward approach with a presentation of its material that is informative, entertaining and surprisingly involving. Based upon Twain's best-selling Innocents Abroad, Dreamland continues on its film festival circuit this week with screenings at Indy Film Fest where the film screens in competition amongst the feature docs.
2017 is the 150th anniversary of Twain's journey to Europe and the Holy Land and Dreamland retraces Twain's footsteps using details from his actual letters and journal notes. The film tells what is a fairly unknown story regarding Twain's work as a young reporter and his embarking on a maiden voyage across the Atlantic and into the Holy Land. It's a journey that would have Jerusalem as its final destination, a destination that would shape Twain's writing for years to come.
For Twain fans, myself included, Dreamland is a joy as one gets to see the only known film of Twain and the first film made of Jerusalem. Additionally, the film puts on display Twain's only letters, an authenticity both straightforward and emotionally resonant.
Dreamland also screened at the Las Cruces International Film Festival and should no doubt have a long fest life if desired, though it's a film that seems tailor made for multiple television/cable outlets rather than an indie cinematic or arthouse journey. The film features performances by Jeffrey Weissman as Twain and Wylie Herman as Julius Moulton. Sheen's narration gives the film a warm gravitas that helps to humanize Twain and add depth and insight into a side of Twain that many of us knew yet never truly understood.
Adam Vardy's lensing is solid throughout and co-directors A.D. Oppenheim and Diana Zaslaw pace the 74-minute project in such a way that Dreamland: Mark Twain's Journey to Jerusalem is quite the journey itself and is easily one of the doc highlights at the 2017 Indy Film Fest.