EARLY BIRDS is a documentary about the
world of the die-hard "garage sailor"--the
kind of person who's the reason why garage-sale
ads often bear the titular phrase. Steen
and Bayer introduce us to Roxanne and
Dale, two Austin residents who are the
embodiment of the garage sailor, though
from opposite poles.
who owns a curio shop (called Curiosa),
climbs into her SUV every weekend and
goes on a quest for merchandise. Dale,
a church custodian who lives a simple,
though not quite Thoreau-esque, life,
pedals his bike to sales all over town.
the filmmakers ride along (and pedal along),
Roxanne and Dale impart their theories
on pricing and what the market will bear,
why people go to sales, the importance
of timing, and which church sales have
the best merch ("The Episcopals—they’re
the richest," says Roxanne).
who does go to garage sales? Steen and
Bayer show us the home of a genial gent
who so loves garage sales that he’s turned
his home into a sort of garage sale gallery—an
installation consisting of the aftermath
of owning stuff. As the camera wended
its way down the barely navigable paths
of his home, I had to acknowledge that
Americans tire of things and cast them
aside far too cavalierly. But I also saw
a horrible warning in a salvage mindset
taken to such extremes that it made me
want to clear out my closets right away.
on the other hand, lives spartanly, in
a barely furnished rental. He buys, especially
musical instruments, but shows by his
easy willingness to sell when he needs
cash that he never really owns. And Roxanne
is the consummate middleperson—she buys
because she knows that others will.
filmmakers leave no stone unturned, as
they ask utility pole workers and a signage
ordinance enforcer about the effect of
garage sales on their work lives. They
also take us into the delicate world of
the estate sale, interviewing an estate
sale agent, a bereaved son, and a neighbor
who’s eyed a couple of household items
for some time.
dull? Sound like an unlikely topic for
a film? Put aside your doubts. NO EARLY
BIRDS is the genuine article. From more
than two years of footage, these filmmakers
have carved an at-time hilarious slice
of lives that is both respectful to its
colorful subjects and also a meditation
on our consumer culture.
Bogucka, an Action Grrl!