While I was washing dishes last night, I wondered: is A Life’s Work an American movie? In order to answer that, some other questions need to be addressed.
First, what is an American movie? Is it a film made in America? And what exactly do we mean by “made”? We don’t mean set in America, we probably agree on that. Made by an American producer? Director? With American financing? Or mostly American financing? Is it that documentary made in 1999 called American Movie?
Maybe it will help if we look at how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a non-American movie. From Wikipedia:
The Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film is handed out annually by the U.S.-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to a feature-length motion picture produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.
Nope. No help whatsoever. Let’s look elsewhere.
When we talk about the Great American Novel (my vote, a tie, Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby), we’re talking about American writers writing about American themes (racism and the corruption of the American [that word again] Dream). Okay, for convenience sake, why don’t we go with that one.
Though I was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and I live on the silver sliver of an island known as Manhattan and I have a U.S. passport, it seems I only identify myself as American when I’m out of the country and I’m asked where I’m from. But even then, most of the time I’ll say “New York City.” But sure, I’m an American filmmaker. All the evidence seems to say this is so
So, are the themes especially American? Legacy, mortality, passion, devotion. These seem like universal themes and not themes specific to this country.
But in one way, A Life’s Work is quite American. I always thought of the film as a bit of a road trip, and I’m very proud of how we captured the many locations: Chicago, Waco, TX, Copemish, MI, Cordes Junction, AZ, multiple places in Northern California, NYC. It might not be an examination of this country’s soul, but it does give you a taste of its varied landscape. (Just watch some clips for proof.)
Happy Fourth of July!