Highway 61

Director: Bruce McDonald
Screenwriters: Don McKellar

Institute History

  • 1992 Sundance Film Festival


Bruce McDonald manifests all the distinguishing marks of a true maverick out of Canada’s fervent independent scene with his distinctive brand of genre films. As a road movie set along the legendary highway that stretches from Thunder Bay in northern Ontario to New Orleans, Louisiana, Highway 61 is McDonald’s and screenwriter Don McKellar’s high-voltage, sardonic meditation on Canadian idiosyncrasies wrapped up in a tight, eccentric plot. Pokie Jones, a barber and frustrated trumpet player, is cajoled out of his small town and onto the open road heading toward New Orleans when a tough-talking rock ‘n’ roll roadie, Jackie Bangs, sells him on the idea of visiting the birthplace of jazz—and transporting her and a coffin to Louisiana. With little else said, a laconic Pokie finds himself racing down Highway 61 in his dead parents’ unblemished Galaxie 500 with a pine box over his head, a live wire to his right and an ominous Mr. Skin in close pursuit. And just as the highway takes you through some of America’s musical capitals, Highway 61 is charged with a sound track that features the Ramones, Tom Jones, The Archies, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and a cameo by Dead Kennedy’s hardcore rocker, Jello Biafra.

— Alberto Garcia

Screening Details

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