Cinema Verite’ is alive and well as Roland Tec look at what the last seven years of the Bush administration hath wrought. Study, but do not repeat
Roland Tic’s (“All the Rage”) latest film is an assemblage of thirteen related vignettes showing us the hole we have dug for ourselves and urging us to get out of it. The full title is “We Pedal Uphill—Stories From the States 2001-2008.” The full title of the film is important because the thirteen stories are not random in time any more than they are random in subject matter. The central focus is the moral, ethical and emotional morass the Bush administration plunged American citizens into after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. Not that American would have been without a morale compass even without the terrorist attacks. After all, it is hard to blame the Taliban on the Madoff mass swindle or any of the dozens (hundreds?) of lesser financial crimes committed during the Bush administration. The answer lies in the message sent by the leader of our country. The message was as clear as it was destructive.
Each short subject in the 111 minutes film averages about ten minutes long and uses between one and several characters. Most of the segments are one or two persons. The over-arching themes are alienation through a lack of understanding and the weaknesses caused by an absence of teamwork and the encouragement of divisive politics. Following from these causes are depression and emotional detachment. Oh, yes, there is the downright overt dishonesty and the buying of love with money; or the pretense of buying love with money. If that were possible we would be swimming in love by now.
If this is not the most pleasant prognosis in the world, the good news is that the worst is over. Yes, we are unemployed and our houses are being taken away. But the root causes for these things are steadily weakening in the wake of the new administration. Brainwashing is still out there, we have to be vigilant about what we read and what we see. But mind control will not be as central a tool for the next eight years as it was for the last eight. People will be encouraged to think, again. It will be a painful process for some.
The film engages the ability to think, to have an understanding of what one is doing and the right of a person to know the truth. If one does not believe the Rosenberg’s were really responsible for the Vietnam War should one have to listen to that on a public guided tour? If a professional singer puts an emotion into a song, does that person have the right to know the song will be used to recruit soldiers? Even more to the point, if the singer is asked to make the song more “black,” does she have the right to know that blacks outnumber whites in the military by five to one based on their per capita presence in the US population?
Several of the segments are downright funny. The one about the public relations “professional” having a heemie fit is precious. It features a one-sided argument over the direction the president of the USA faces, and the direction the sun faces, in an old growth forest being used as background for a publicity shoot. The only subject that could have been more poignant would have been the actual rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic. The short about amazing extra profits arising from using the “whole cow” for prison meals is just a good. Love that barbecue.
The heartbreak of institutionalized divisive politics is nailed when a black man drives all day in his sister’s car to thank a white man for saving his life in the Katrina floods. The black and the white can not be seen understanding or appreciating one another lest the rules of the game be altered--at least the rules that have been drummed into their heads. The son is driven from his home in the middle of the night by his guilt feelings over his gay sexual orientation.
This film is one of the finest examples of independent film making being released today. All of the shots are with a hand-held camera and there were few, if any, requiring more than a single camera at a time. The sound track is limited to songs at the beginning and end of the thirteen parts; otherwise there is little or no sound track at all, other than dialog. There are no sets, all shooting takes place in Everyman’s library, kitchen, factory, bedroom and motel. This is cinema stripped down to the bare essentials. You watch, you listen and you learn.
Release: March 20, 2009
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 111 minutes