The director and star of an adventurous documentary join us to recount the five-year trip that traversed six continents and 37 countries. Athlete Serge Roetheli and filmmaker John Davies discuss The 25,000 Mile Love Story, a film that details the impossible journey of one endurance athlete’s desire to help children throughout the world.
Read an interview with a producer and editor of the film, Brian Kallies.
What attracted you to this project?
It was an interesting story, and an usual assignment. John Davies and I were given 90 hours of what was essentially home movie footage and we had to find a story in it.
How long did this take you to put together?
We were basically locked in a room together for six intensive months.
Where does this documentary take place?
Over five years, Serge and his wife Nicole travel 25,000 miles through six continents and 35 countries. The race began in 2000 in Sion, Switzerland, and it ended in the same place in 2005. The time period this film captures is interesting, because it pre-dates social media. This run occurred just before the world was really connected as we know it.
What is the film about?
I think it’s about manifesting your dreams, and it doesn’t have to be running around the world. It can be being excellent in something that you love, and doing the leg work on that. It’s also about Serge’s love of freedom. He’s not a 9 to 5, punch the clock kind of guy. His day job is a mountain guide in Switzerland.
How is this a love story?
Love is a big word, and it covers many different things in this film. First, it covers the love between the couple. Second, it covers Serge’s love of freedom, nature, mountains, open roads, and not having a boss. Lastly, all of this took place to help raise awareness and dollars for impoverished kids. That was their motivating factor. The groups of smiling kids they would encounter kept them going. So “love” covers many things.
During their journey, Serge and Nicole were confronted with extreme weather, civil unrest, and a variety of life-threatening events. Does the film depict those challenges?
These were basically home videos, shot by Serge and Nicole with their own camera. When you’re being chased by gangs with machetes or there’s Civil War going on, you’re not shooting footage. You’re just trying to stay alive.
There are scenes where he’s running through the Sahara, and you can tell it’s hot and windy and it’s hard. However, Serge was in such good shape that he looked like he was on the cover of Runners World most of the time. He said he didn’t want to shoot the bad stuff because bad stuff happens all the time. He wanted to shoot the good.
As a filmmaker, you want to see a struggle, and we didn’t have the budget to do recreations. So we had to use what was on the reels, and figure out how to tell those stories of struggle.
What’s your favorite scene?
There’s a point where Serge talks about McDonald’s as an oasis. I love the look on his face. Nothing was predictable on the road, but when he saw those golden arches he always knew he was going to get good food, air conditioning and toilet paper.
What’s unique about Serge?
Serge considers himself very rich. However, he’s not rich in terms of money. He’s rich in experiences. This guy has seen the world on the ground. He’s been to places most people have never heard of. And he’s a
charming guy. I just met him this morning, but after watching 90 hours of his footage, I felt like I knew him.
How have people reacted to the film so far?
It’s won multiple Audience Favorite Awards. We’ve been through nine or 10 film festivals, and people like it. They really respond because it’s inspirational.
Where can the public see it?
It’s on the festival circuit right now. There might be a theatrical release. It’s in the works at the moment.
Interview has been condensed and edited.
Check out the film's trailer:
In the following video, Serge talks about why he drank so much Coca-Cola during the five-year journey:
Watch some footage from The 25,000 Mile Love Story: