Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Proud American" seems to be a sponsored patriotic film

This weekend a number of theaters are airing what appears to be a corporate sponsored patriotic film, “Proud American,” written and directed by Fred Ashman, distributed by Lightsource LLC. The companies listed are American Airlines, Coca Cola, Master Card, and Wal-mart. The website is here.

There is a very curious comment early in the film (with an aerial shot of New York, the kind you might see from one of Donald Trump's choppers). "Back home, if you draw attention to yourself, they put you in jail. In America, they put you on T.V." (Maybe even "Saturday Night Live", or even "The Apprentice".) One immigrant made a comment that China is just beginning to experiment with freedom.

The film is inspirational and episodic, with on location scenery from all over the country, and some brief historical episodes like what would show in a museum film. There are skits showing how Coca Cola and Wal-Mart formed. There is a brief enactment of the NYC fire department, and a shot of the WTC 9/11 site. The film opens with some immigrants taking an oath of citizenship with a judge. But most of the film tells a few success stories. The writing seems a bit sugary and “feel good” and the life stories move quite quickly over time.

The first major story concerns a Vietnamese “boat” girl who impresses her teachers in a California school but angers cliquish female students. Later, she is married to a young computer programmer and her business skills help him start Sunrise Software.

In another episode, vandals attack a Jewish home during the Christmas season, and neighbors rally and display the Hanukkah Menorah (or Hanukkiah) outside each of their homes as part of their Christmas decorations.

The longest episode concerns an African American boy in Chicago who, after a narrow street escape, has an encounter that inspires him to eventually become a doctor. The episode traces his ups and downs all the way through medical school.

Another episode traces a Brazilian young man who starts in the Miami restaurant business as a dishwasher, becomes manager, then joins the Navy, trains as a Seal, is wounded in combat, and then trains to participate in wheelchair Olympics.

There are times when one wants to present a sequence of events of some elapsed time in a short film in order to make a political or social point or perhaps expose some kind of problem. Typically a film like this will have many short scenes with brief conversations or activities than fail to build up much real dramatic tension. It’s important to identify with the protagonist, which is easy in this film, but more problematic if the protagonist is flawed. Sometimes a “sequence” like this works if seen through the eyes of a younger character of another generation who “learns something” from the episode.

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