The Ground Beneath Our Feet
An American road movie spanning 250 years
The producers call it “an American road movie spanning 250 years.” It’s also an attempt to depict French colonial life in the region in the early days of the City of Saint Louis.
“The Ground Beneath Our Feet” tells two stories simultaneously: one is a contemporary tale of Tom, a young ex-pat American who lives in France and is called back to his hometown of Albuquerque. A little strapped for cash, Tom struggles to find his way across half the country to Saint Louis, where he confronts a family emergency that shakes him to the core.
The second story, told initially through flashbacks and then through a degree of magical realism, is the story of a young single father living in Le Pays de Illinois in the mid-18th century. Jean Brûlé is raising his daughter, Anne, near Prairie du Rocher, Illinois.
In the Autumn of 1763, a bigwig from New Orleans arrives at Fort de Chartres with his 14-year-old stepson in tow. Laclede and Chouteau tell les habitants about the treaty signed in Paris earlier that Spring in which the King had ceded French territory East of the Mississippi to Great Britain.
The French families of the Illinois Country are told that the land where their families have lived for hundreds of years is no longer French territory. The news is, of course, shocking.
Their migration away from Illinois was gradual, but steady. Some returned to Quebec. Some went across the river to Ste. Genevieve. Some went to New Orleans. And some went to the new village founded by those two visitors to the Fort: Saint Louis.
But some went much further West: to Texas and New Mexico. (Galveston, TX was founded by a man who grew up in Kaskaskia, IL. The legendary Billy the Kid was shot and killed in New Mexico in the home of a Frenchman who had come from Illinois.)
As Jean Brûlé makes his journey to New Mexico in 1764, he passes through the same monumental landscape Tom drives through more than two centuries later.
The story at the heart of “The Ground Beneath Our Feet” tries to dig deep into the human experience of having the rug pulled out from underneath us: how do we re-group, re-think, re-imagine our lives when we think calamity has made it impossible to go on?
The two characters — while separated by some 250 years — share the experience of loss and re-invention. And the filmmakers hope their stories will cause audiences to renew their own confidence in the human ability to recover and move on.
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