For years, Matt Green walked every street in New York. The documentary “The world at your feet” tells of this extraordinary project.
A man strolls through the streets without hurry, passes a Burger King and a dump, he passes a group of police officers, walks through a narrow alley, waves to children in a playground. It could be any city – but then the most famous skyline in the world appears in the background.
The man is Matt Green, and Matt Green has a mission: He wants every street, graveyard, and waterfront from New York City run. The documentary “The world at your feet” by Jeremy Workman, which was shown in the USA in 2018 and is now coming to Germany, accompanies him on this XXL walk.
The Green runs around 13,000 kilometers. Originally, the now thirty-year-old reports, he expected to spend two or two and a half years walking. He is still running six years after starting his project. He cannot explain what motivates him to quit his job and apartment to walk the streets of New York. Green says he has no specific goal, doesn't want to make the world a better place, and doesn't want to exploit his running commercially.
He feels “it is important in a way that is difficult to grasp or difficult to explain. The point is that I don't really know what the point is. It just results from the fact that I keep going. ”Green knew what he was getting into: Already in 2010, at the age of 29, he walked across the states, from the east to the west coast, more precisely in five months : from Rockaway Beach in Queens to Rockaway Beach in Oregon. That was 3,100 miles, almost 5,000 kilometers.
There are concrete reasons why it takes so much longer for the 8,000 miles that make up his route in New York: Matt Green is devoted to his surroundings and stops with every detail so that he can calmly photograph it. He strolls without haste, talks to the people he meets on his way. And he researches like crazy to write about it in his blog "I'm just walkin '". If he is interested in a topic, he just reads himself through issues of New York Times from the 19th century.
Enormous knowledge of New York
That is one of the most exciting aspects of documentation. Not only Matt Green's unusual project itself, but also his enormous knowledge of New York, which he willingly shares, make "The World at Your Feet" extraordinary. The city, which even the people who have never been there know well, tells him completely new stories. Greenwich Village, SoHo or the Upper East Side are not to be seen, there are few shots of the skyline, the typical Brownstone houses or the fire escape that you know from every New York film.
Matt Green is an exceptional connoisseur of the architecture, history, urban planning and flora and fauna of his chosen city
Instead, Green points to a nondescript wall in Brownsville, Brooklyn that was once the first birth control clinic in the United States. The women's rights activist and nurse Margaret Sanger opened it in October 1916; it had to close only nine days later. Today, no sign indicates what kind of story is hidden here.
Like an archaeologist, Matt Green fathoms the layers under the layers. Knowing why there are redwoods in New York, he leads to Wall Street, where the city's slave market used to be, and, also on Wall Street, points to bullet holes in the walls caused by an attack by Italian anarchists in 1920 was that.
He doesn't have to pay rent
What the documentary lacks entirely is a more pragmatic view of Matt Green's endeavors. At the beginning, some practical details are clarified. How is it financed? Well, obviously the former engineer saved money. An important point is that he doesn't have to pay rent. Instead, he sleeps with friends or with people who know his blog and have invited him.
He often does catsitting (and has an astonishingly good memory for the names of all the cats he has already fed), takes care of entire luxury apartments and then spends the night on the pool table of a shared apartment.
Therefore, he calculates, he only needs $ 15 a day for food and local transportation. The food was not expensive because instead of buying a sandwich for $ 6, he cooked rice with beans for 75 cents. It seems strange that director Jeremy Workman is not asking here. Should we assume that Matt Green has only spent a few dollars a day on food since the six years he's been at the end of the film?
How often do the shoes break?
Other everyday, but important questions are at most touched upon. Green with a water bottle can be seen in just two shots of innumerable takes; he never carries a bag. When does he drink How often do the shoes break? Who pays their cell phone bill? And where does he go to the toilet?
The fact that he can walk the streets quite carefree as a white man (he was never robbed or robbed) is little addressed. For practical reasons alone (keyword toilet), it would be much more difficult for women to undertake such an undertaking.
How privileged Matt Green is can be seen when other strollers have their say, including journalist Garnette Cadogan. Cadogan is a Jamaican by birth, a black man who has to “dress up” to do what Green does so light-heartedly. "I'm going through a transformation to avoid the appearance of crime," he explains.
New York without the usual, disused images
This disguise includes wearing “good” clothes instead of a hooded sweater, moving in a certain way so as not to appear threatening and always having glasses and a book with you. The happy, carefree way in which Cadogan is cut briefly in "The world at your feet" shows a major weak point in the documentation: It is better not to deal with reality as precisely.
And yet it is worth ignoring this obvious shortcoming. Stylize Jeremy Workman's atmospheric recordings and many cuts a certain urban romance of New York without showing the usual, disused images. And protagonist Matt Green is not only a sympathetic figure that one likes to accompany on his walks, but also a very exceptional expert on the architecture, history, urban planning and flora and fauna of his chosen city.
"The world at your feet" teaches us to take a closer look. “The entire cabinet of chance discoveries and discoveries only becomes the puzzle into which they fit as pieces at the end,” says Green at the end of the film. The devil is in the details, but also the beauty, history and nature of a city, its depth and importance.
(By the way: Matt Green has been pretty busy with it since the documentary was released in 2018, most recently he was on a promotional tour in Germany with director Workman. His last blog post on March 14, day 2,631, promises: "Still at it!" Die He may have all walked the streets of New York, we can still hope for the results of his research.)