“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”

On The Road, Jack Kerouac’s celebrated novel published in 1957, has traditionally been thought unfilmmable. It is not surprising, therefore, that the first film adaptation of the Kerouac opus is being released only this year. After a long history of failed attempts with numerous directors and stars attached, the current incarnation of Salles’ groundbreaking film finally celebrated its world-premiere at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

The famed Brazilian director’s version of Kerouac’s beat epic is extremely faithfully to the text. As in the novel, writer Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) has his life turned upside when he encounters the free-spirited Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and his girlfriend , Marylou (Kristen Stewart). Also starring Viggo Mortensen, Steve Buscemi, Amy Adams, Kristen Dunst and more, Salles’ film serves as the ultimate love letter to that free-wheeling generation of bohemian “mad ones.” The impact of the film is aided by a wild jazz soundtrack and artful cinematography.

On The Road officially begins its run at the IFC Center on December 21. To celebrate the film, Salles, who has long since been a purveyor of the road movie genre, is behind a special week of programming that kicks off tonight with a special sneak peak of Salles’ On The Road. The director will be in person for a Q&A after the showing. The ensuing week’s line-up consists of road movies carefully selected by Salles to show the evolution and variety of the genre.

Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider in The Passenger/Courtesy of MGM

On display will be Road movies from directors such as Wim Wenders (Alice in the Cities), Michelangelo Antonioni (The Passenger), John Ford (The Searchers), Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider) and Salles himself (Central Station, The Motorcycle Diaries). The goal of this weeklong series is to highlight films in which characters veer away from the stagnant lives of conformists to forge new paths of their own. Road movies traditionally challenge accepted ideas and mindless social conventions and stress the importance of self-discovery.

Salles’s slate of films constitutes a truly international celebration of the genre, including Road films from China, Iran, Italy, and Brazil, among others. Full of eccentric characters and even stranger places, Road movies seek to expand our view of the world, and there is no one better to introduce New York audiences to the genre than Salles himself. Thank you, IFC!

So start plannng your week! To see the full line-up of Road Movies: Directed and Selected by Walter Salles, click here.