The Discoverers is the story of a soon-to-be-divorced community college professor who moonlights as a security guard while trying to complete and publish his life’s work — a 6,000-page book about Lewis and Clark’s journey west. But, as the movie’s writer and director Justin Schwarz puts it more simply, “It’s about family.”
Lewis Birch is in the early stages of a Chicago-to-Portland, Ore., road trip with his snarky, cynical daughter and his stoner son when he finds out his mother is ill and he has to go off the trail. He hasn't seen his parents in a long time, and when his mother’s death sends his father into a near-catatonic state that leaves him believing he’s Captain William Clark, Birch and his kids get sucked into a Lewis and Clark Expedition reenactment troop — with all the accoutrements of the very early 1800s on the frontier.
The pacing is slow but allows the viewer to absorb all of the great writing along with the clever, dry quips from Birch’s daughter, Zoe. By the end, each member of the group discovers something about themselves and each other.
While the movie’s only two Cleveland International Film Festival showings were this past weekend, Schwarz has organized a Kickstarter campaign to fund a wider release. He’s drumming up support on the festival circuit, kicking everything off here in Cleveland.
The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through April 14. To browse the schedule, visit clevelandfilm.org.