Award-winning filmmaker Julie Sokolow arrived in Indy for her first visit to the Hoosier state to offer up the world premiere of her latest film, Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story, an engaging and entertaining documentary that examines the obsessions that drove the charming Baumer to walk barefoot for over 100 days through America. Baumer, a writer and environmentalist with a penchant for self-recorded videos and archival footage, aspires to save Earth from climate change through this unique walk. Along the way, he aspires to raise $10,000 for a chosen organization with which he aligns.
While Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story may sound like nothing more than the latest quirky activist story, Sokolow's too gifted of a filmmaker to not dig deeper and the story itself takes on tragic elements for Baumer and his family the day after Donald Trump's inauguration.
Sokolow is a compelling filmmaker whose feature doc Woman on Fire told the story of Brooke Guinan, New York's first transgender firefighter. Sokolow also directed the wonderful Aspie Seeks love, a doc that picked up the Best Documentary prize at Cinequest in 2015. It's pretty clear that Sokolow is drawn to unique yet richly human stories and it's equally clear that she knows how to bring those stories vividly to life.
You can't help but adore Baumer, a passionate environmentalist whose videos become increasingly intense in the days leading up to the election that would bring Donald Trump, for the most part a climate change denier, to the presidency. While you may not always find yourself agreeing with Baumer, his eccentric sense of humor and unbridled enthusiasm are both infinitely contagious and Barefoot captures that all quite beautifully.
There's a rawness to much of the footage that works to the film's advantage and there's also an emotional rawness to Sokolow's interviews with Mark's family.
If you know me and you know my story, then you also know that I was immensely drawn to the story of Mark Baumer. Being someone who has traveled nearly 7,000 miles by wheelchair over the course of my life in my own grassroots activism, I've long believed in the power of one person to make a difference in the world one mile at a time.
Indeed, Baumer vividly lives into the idea that one person can make a difference in the world by showing up, speaking out, and maybe getting more than a little attention along the way.
Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story picked up the prize for Best Premiere, Documentary Feature during the 2019 Heartland International Film Festival's Awards Ceremony. It's a well deserved prize for a film that inspires, engages, challenges, and entertains. For more information on Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story, visit the film's Facebook page linked to in the credits. For more information on the Heartland International Film Festival, visit the Heartland Film website.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic