Karma Cowboy


2002 | 35mm | 1:1.85 | Dolby SR | 45 min


Jerry Davis disappeared. His childhood friend searches for the trace Jerry left behind. He travels through the U.S.A. and meets people, who were close to Jerry. Just like Jerry they come from the lower white class, get by with McJobs and believe in the future. 'Karma Cowboy' ends with sentences from Douglas Coupland’s novel “Generation X”: Most of us have only two or three genuinely interesting moments in our lives; the rest is filler. And at the end of our lives, most of us will be lucky if any of those moments connected together to form a story that anyone would find remotely interesting. The filmmakers Sonja Heiss and Vanessa van Houten tell one of those stories. They let their first-person narrator travel across the U.S.A from Detroit to Las Vegas in search of his childhood friend Jerry Davis. He meets Jerry’s friends, relatives and lovers who talk about him. “Karma Cowboy” is a compact, precisely told road movie. It takes the viewer to the other end of the American Dream. The characters in the film are marginal figures who eke out an existence doing dismal jobs. Some of them hope they’ll become famous some day. They believe in Elvis and Madonna. Others are afraid of aliens. With a good eye for detail, Sonja Heiss and Vanessa van Houten observe this authentic way of life.

A film that confronts us with life’s contradictions, a life that is like a journey, constantly in search of meaning and experience, always leaving traces behind. Short bright moments of hope and fragile dreams brighten up everyday life.


LindaSherry Milam
SamJimmy Chen
PheranPheran Milam
BarbaraJennifer Shea
SandySandra White-Kelemen
Mrs FaverMartha Faver
JohnJohn Porcaro
Mann im WohnwagenWayne Middleton
Alter MannWilliam Dudy
FaithFaith Gazic
Alte StimmeGale Townsend


ScreenplaySonja Heiss
Baran Bo Odar
DirectorSonja Heiss
Vanessa van Houten
Producers Maren Ade
Janine Jackowski
Ernst Kalff
Director of PhotographyNikolai von Graevenitz
EditingYuval Zafrir
Production ManagerEvi Stangassinger
NarratorPaul Shottner
MusicJeff Tarlton



Visions du Réel – International Documentary Film Festival: Prix Regards Neufs
Film Festival Munich: Baverian Dokumentary Film Award "The Young Lion"


Mikrokino Festival Belgrad
Shortfilm Festival Landshut
Istanbul International Short Film Festival
Visions du Réel - International Documentary Film Festival
International Documentary Film Festival Munich
Sehsüchte – Internationales Studentenfilmfestival der HFF Konrad Wolf
(International Student Film Festivan HFF Konrad Wolf)
International Student Film Festival Munich
Film Festival di Bizzarie in San Benidetto del Tronto
Documentary Film Festival Leipzig
Kalamata International Documentary Film Festival
Film Festival of the German Film, London
Documentary Film Festival Duisburg
Documentary and Video Film Festival Kassel
Film Festival L´Alternativa, IX Independent Film Festival of Barcelona
Festival de Creaciòn Audiovisual, Navarra
Documentary Film Festival Taiwan
Rotterdam International Film Festival
International Documentary Film Festival Taipei
TaiwanJeonjou International Film Festival
Südkorea Kalamata International Documentary Film Festival
Selection of the Exportunion of German Films for the festivals of German documentary films:
London, Edinburgh, Dundee, Great Britain, etc.