Review – Carpet Cowboys



Synopsis A documentary that follows the lives of several people that are involved in the carpet industry, as they try to figure out how to keep living the American dream when their world has already changed so much.

Length 1 hour, 25 minutes

Release Date August 25, 2023


Rating Not yet rated

Distribution Memory

Directing Noah Collier, M. Emily Mackenzie

Writing Noah Collier, M. Emily Mackenzie

Composition Kara-Lis Coverdale

Starring Roderick James

I recently experienced a floor renovation at home. 0/10. Would not recommend. Not that my negative attitude has anything to do with the installers themselves—they were fantastic. I found myself in awe of their dedication and skill. Rather it’s just the pain of playing a giant game of “the floor is lava”, with your large pieces of furniture being your key players. It’s not fun being cramped into the one room that isn’t being touched, surrounded by an entire house worth of furnishings, all while someone else is grinding away at something with a power tool just a few feet away. I’m still wiping away the dust fragments that scattered everywhere, resting on every surface imaginable throughout the house.

You don’t tend to think much about flooring until you’re forced to stare endlessly at the plethora of samples available on the market. If you visit enough stores, then you begin to see the pattern. Not the patterns themselves, but the pattern of patterns. They all start to look familiar, and you quickly recognize the ones you’ve seen before. As I quickly learnt as I was presented with a copy of Carpet Cowboys, it’s because one small township in America has a giant monopoly on the market. Maybe it was to commiserate and recover from the trauma of the floor renovation, or maybe because I had genuinely developed a weird interest in flooring over the past few months, but a documentary on the topic felt like the right kind of thing to watch right now.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: None.

Language/Crude Humor: Some f-bombs and the s-word are uttered infrequently throughout the film, mainly in instances when a character is caught off-guard.

Drug/Alcohol References: Alcoholic beverages are consumed in social settings, but not to excess. Some interviewees are seen smoking cigarettes/cigars.

Sexual Content: A sign writer talks about the genitalia they’ve hidden amongst their artwork.

Spiritual Content: Some interviewees wear Christian iconography. One person expresses their faith in a creator through finding curious oddities in nature. There is a quick discussion about building a large cross.

Other Negative Content: None.

Positive Content: People continually express gratitude for their current position in life, and towards their support network. They actively seek positive change through proper discernment of their situation, which may motivate viewers to take stock of their own lives.


Disclaimer: Geeks Under Grace were provided with a screener copy for this film’s review.

Carpet Cowboys contains an odd sense of humor. As the camera pans over the many warehouses of Dalton, Georgia, the “Carpet Capital of the World”, it feels almost otherworldly and dystopian. Gorgeously shot, we watch as steam rises from rolls of freshly made carpet, an unfamiliar landscape. Meanwhile, elsewhere in factory, lines of people mindlessly walk in literal loops over carpet samples in order to test its durability; why this can’t be tested by a machine, how people actually get this job, and how many steps they must reach on their FitBit each day remains a tantalizing mystery.

The documentary’s first act is slightly reminiscent of The Office’s Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, where exuberant boss, Michael Scott, is reflected in the ever-so-charismatic textile designer, Roderick James. A Scottish expat but fitted with an American cowboy’s wardrobe, he’s an interesting character to follow. We watch as he explores the countryside, finding inspiration from tree stumps to piles of hay, taking photos and proclaiming he has found the next best-selling carpet design. It would be laughable, bordering on parody, if it wasn’t all so oddly charming.

Carpet Cowboys follows a number of different lives. One such person is Harry Ward, who after spending two decades in the carpet industry, decided to finally branch off into stone. He passionately shares with the camera his rock collection—big pieces that look like they have a face—while he chats about his faith in God. Admittedly, it gets a little goofy. However, Carpet Cowboys, while it’s not scared to show the eccentricities of its cast, it never crosses the line of disrespecting those that gave up their time to be part of the film. So while some viewers may find themselves giggling at Ward’s weird hobby, others may end up finding his understanding of natural creation and revelation to be an interesting perspective.  

As the film continues to interview numerous people, each quirky in their own way, the story begins to meander. What is this documentary actually about? Because it’s not about carpet. If you’re a weird one like me that genuinely wanted an educational experience as to the making and distribution of flooring products, sadly Carpet Cowboys doesn’t deliver on that front. The documentary genre can fulfill a number of purposes; they don’t always seek to educate. However, this one is a little bit in No Man’s Land. It doesn’t contain enough drama to be a journalistic exposé, and there’s no disembodied narration to drive a moralistic point. It has that fly-on-the-wall style where it enjoys hanging in the company of various people, leaving the audience to make up their own meaning.

From a narrative standpoint, this cinematic tactic is the weakest, however considering the subject matter, it can be forgivable that Carpet Cowboys meanders, as it’s almost symbolic of its cast. It’s not obvious at first, but outside of the carpet industry, they all have something in common: they were all touched by the American dream. They had goals, achieved them, found success, and now after years of enjoyment, find themselves wondering what is next. The story evolves into an analysis of a person’s later chapter in life. The American dream is clearly achievable, but is it sustainable? The world changes alongside each person, causing some to question whether the ideal of the American dream is even in America any more, and whether those lofty ideas can be transplanted elsewhere. It’s not just the exportation of carpet, but also a culture it represents.  

Carpet Cowboys catches Roderick James at an interesting time in his life, as he questions whether he should close the chapter of one dream to chase another. The documentarians do well to film off-the-cuff conversations, although once or twice it results in a subtle dip in production quality, as the other person isn’t properly hooked up with a microphone, or they’re forced to film in a room with lighting that’s not friendly for camera. Yet these criticisms are minor. For the most part, it’s nicely shot, with each frame looking planned even though it no doubt wasn’t the case.

While the film feels directionless at times, what it does excel at is capturing the unique little moments in life that are often overlooked but need to be cherished. It’s the dropping of a cup, getting misunderstood over a phone call, or the reaction to having a gecko unexpectedly crawl across your torso. Those innocent tiny moments that are frequently flicked aside and yet that’s what truly flavors life. There’s a comedy behind it all. While these people are all focussed on the big changes, the big decisions, the audience smiles at the day-to-day accidents that tally up into our weird existence.

Carpet Cowboys is a ponderous documentary, though it’s not confrontational or educational. Some like this film style, though most won’t. There’s nothing inherently bad about the film, it just will struggle to find an audience that will appreciate its nuance. If you are at the same stage in life as the cast, or are interested in the subject matter, then by all means, check out this film. It is available to stream on Metrograph At Home until September 7th, and will screen at Brain Dead Studios in Los Angeles on September 15, and will hopefully release in other cities in the future.


+ Well produced
+ Quirky
+ Ponderous


- Meandering narrative

The Bottom Line

Carpet Cowboys may not end up saying much about carpet, but it does have a lot to say about the enduring, attractive flicker of the American dream. However, in a genre that’s usually stronger with its messaging, this film might be too nuanced for most viewers.



Juliana Purnell

After obtaining a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts, Juliana Purnell has enjoyed a successful acting career, working within theme parks, businesses, and on film sets. She has also taken on crew roles, both in film and theatrical productions. When Juliana isn't working, she enjoys watching movies of all genres at the cinema, writing, and playing with Samson, her pomeranian.

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