La Camioneta shows life after school for an American school bus. The bus gets auctioned off, driven down to Guatemala, and sold to a man named Ermelindo Velásquez who is trying to make a living as a bus driver. The bus gets partially rebuilt, fully repainted, and transforms into an entirely different vehicle, designed to grab the attentions of potential customers.
Through the use of the bus’ travels, La Camioneta delves into the lives of the people involved. We witness the time, care, and attention required to complete the redesign. We see the long hours of driving, the time away from family, and the hardships that this kind of life can lead to. Most of all, we realize the dangers that come with pursuing this kind of work.
The danger often comes in the form of gangs, who in Guatemala frequently attack buses, killing many drivers and their passengers. In one scene, we watch a news broadcast detailing a bus explosion caused by a grenade. It is heart wrenching as you begin to question why anyone would dream of such a profession. Yet when Ermelindo sees the finished bus, he is happier in that moment than any other throughout the film.
Mark Kendall’s cinematography is beautiful. Wide, still shots of the Guatemalan landscape juxtaposed with the destitute villages instantly affect the viewer. The camera is not afraid of tight close ups of the subjects, giving the film an incredibly personal feel. However, La Camioneta is not without flaws. At times, it feels overlong and repetitive, threatening to lose the viewer’s interest. But when the final shots transition from the brightly-colored, festive camioneta to a normal yellow school bus full of children back in America, the film’s heart comes shining through.