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Sikh News Movie Review: "American Made"

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by Neutral Singh, Nov 2, 2004.

  1. Neutral Singh

    Neutral Singh
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    Jun 1, 2004
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    A bearded turban-wearing Sikh gentleman, his beautiful wife, and two sons
    are stranded in the desert out West after their GM station wagon overheats
    and breaks down. No one will stop to help them. Motorists speed away at the
    sight of the father's turban. The younger son points out to his father that
    if he would just take off his turban, perhaps the passing motorists would
    stop. The motorists think he is a "terrorist."

    American Made reveals the fissure in American life after 9/11. It is a
    single-scene drama, set in a desert. The characters are the father with
    beard and turban, who can quote Robert Frost at a bad moment and who is
    unaware that he is the problem; his younger son who is the catalyst; the
    older son with his useless expensive cell phone, and the beautiful mother
    with the sacred scripture. The father falls back on his ethnic pride and on
    his faith. He has a blind spot about other people's perception of him; his
    sense of dignity and self-worth is laudable. He is shocked and humbled when
    he begins to see that his son is right.

    The conflict within the family has to do with degrees of assimilation.
    There is the universal problem of patriarchal pride: it would not do for
    the father to step back, to take off his turban, or to stay out of sight to
    let his beautiful wife, or his less exotic looking sons be the ones to
    stand at the roadside and flag down a passing car. The film is masterful in
    the way it keeps out rhetoric; it is able to present the universal problem
    of heightened racism and suspicion after 9/11, without any finger pointing.

    The characters stand out, the two brothers are individualized, and each
    reacts differently. The mother's brand of faith is different from the
    father's. The physical props are memorable and are put to dramatic use: the
    cell phone, the turban, the sacred scripture, cars that want to stop, and
    do not stop, the outcome depends on whether the turban is visible or not.
    Laudably, the dramatic change or turn in this single-scene film would
    interest almost anyone, insiders or outsiders.

    The prize Gobbling Short Film, by Sharat Raju, an unknown young film-maker,
    has won an astonishing number of awards and honorable mentions. The 25 year
    old writer-director, has won the 2004 Tribeca award, The Richard P.
    Rodger's Award, The Angelus Award Grand Prize, The Eastman Kodak Award, and
    The Patrick Peyton Award. He also won the Audience Favorite Award at Aspen
    Shortsfest; and The Best International Short Film Award at the Reelworld
    Toronto Film Festival.

    Sharat Raju wrote and directed the film for the American Film Institute as
    part of his MFA. His cinematographer, Mathew R. Blute, has caught the
    quality of light in the desert, and the nowhere-landscape of an expanse of
    the Mojove desert, a hundred miles north of LA.

    The actors Bernard White as the father, Kalpana Jaffrey as the mother, Kal
    Penn (and his cell phone), T-Amir Sweeney as the catalyst son, and Haskell
    Anderson (as the passing motorist) are all believable. I would give
    American Made four stars.

    Watch your film festival circuits for American Made, currently scheduled at
    the Savannah Film Festival, Savannah, Georgia on Oct. 25 and 30; and at the
    "Foculari" conference in Rome, Italy, Nov. 4-7.
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