America’s Heart and Soul

“America’s Heart and Soul” is something an anomaly in American cinema. It is a hybrid of sorts – not quite movie, not quite documentary. It’s more of a collection of short, short stories by 30 different authors tied loosely together by an overriding theme of American individualism.
And I think that was director Louis Schwartzberg intent. Schwartzberg is a master of stunning landscape cinematography. He shoots scenes of rich colors using vibrant time-lapse photographic techniques to embellish the stories of a couple of dozen unique, yet virtually unknown, Americans doing what they do best – just living life.
Some of my favorites include Gospel singer, Mosie Burk, leading the Mississippi Mass Choir in praising the Lord. Then there’s Bike Messenger Yac Yacobellis whipping through New York City traffic like Spider-Man without a web. The Bandaloop Cliff Dancers perform intricate ballet 100 ft up on the side of a sheer cliff while the Brothers Vasquez perform intricate salsa steps on the dance floors of LA.
There are rug weavers and dairy farmers, ice cream entrepreneurs and explosive artists, blind mountain climbers and paraplegic marathon runners. All of them have nothing in common – except a zest for life, a hope for the future, a tie to the land, and a need to give back.
There are a lot of great moments in “America’s Heart and Soul.” It often made me smile, and at times brought tears to my eyes. At this particular point in our nation’s history, I think this movie will strike a cord with a lot of people who want to feel good about our country and ourselves – and that’s not a bad thing.
Still, I left the theatre a bit bemused by the whole thing. It didn’t feel complete to me. There was no beginning, middle or end; no climax or conclusion; no first, second, third act; no narrative thread to tie it all together; no structure. It just didn’t feel like a “movie” experience to me – but more like something I would expect to see on the Discovery Channel.
Family Factor:
Rated PG for some no real good reason other than maybe the salsa dancers’ costumes were a bit skimpy.
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