A film by Sonja Heiss

Year  2002

Length: 45 min

Format:   1:1.85

Country of production  GER

Intro | Synopsis

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.


Co-produced by Komplizen Film, the HFF München and Rem.Doku



Sherry Milam


Jimmy Chen


Pheran Milam




Jennifer Shea


Sandra White-Kelemen

Mrs Faver

Martha Faver


John Porcaro

Mann im Wohnwagen

Wayne Middleton

Alter Mann

William Dudy


Faith Gazic

Alte Stimme

Gale Townsend


Directed by 

Sonja Heiss

Vanessa van Houten


Sonja Heiss

Baran Bo Odar

Director of Photography

Nikolai von Graevenitz


Yuval Zafrir


Paul Shottner

Original Music

Jeff Tarlton

Production Manager

Evi Stangassinger


Maren Ade, Janine Jackowski (Komplizen Film)

Ernst Kalff


Visions du Réel – International Documentary Film Festival

Prix Regards Neufs

Filmfest München

Bayerischer Dokumentarfilmpreis "Der Junge Löwe"


Mikrokino Festival

Shortfilm Festival Landshut

Istanbul International Short Film Festival

Visions du Réel, International Documentary Film Festival

International Documentary Film Festival Munich

International Student Film Festival Potsdam Sehsüchte

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

Documentary Film Festival Duisburg

Documentary and Video Film Festival Kassel

Film Festival L´Alternativa, IX Independent Film Festival of Barcelona

Festival de Creaciòn Audiovisual

Documentary Film Festival Taiwan

Rotterdam International Film Festival

International Documentary Film Festival

TaiwanJeonjou International Film Festival

Sudkorea Kalamata International Documentary Film Festival

Auswahl der Exportunion des deutschen Films für die Festivals des deutschsprachigen Dokumentarfilms ) London, Edinburgh, Dundee