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America's Heart and Soul Review

By Shawn McKenzie 07/06/2004

With this entire flap over Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, conservatives have been trying to find their own movie to hang their hats on in opposition to it.  I still think that it should be Michael Wilson’s documentary Michael Moore Hates America (which I hope finds a distributor, or at least gets a DVD release), but until then, they have America’s Heart and Soul.  This documentary by cinematographer Louis Schwartzberg is supposed to be an inspirational patriotic message to tug on the heartstrings of every American.  I’m all for showing the positive side of America, but this film will bore you long before it inspires you.


This movie shows the lives of over twenty people and groups.  Roudy Roudebush is a horse wrangler from Telluride, CO who has been doing it for 30 years.  Mark and Ann Savoy are Cajun musicians in Eunice, LA.  Mosie Burks is a gospel singer from Jackson, MS who is the lead singer for the Mississippi Mass Choir.  Minny Yancy is a rug weaver from Berea, KY.  George Woodard is a dairy farmer from Waterbury Center, VT who is also a part-time actor (he has eight movies to his credit, according to IMDb.)  Ben Cohen from Williston, VT is the “Ben” from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.  Ed Holt is a wine grower from Santa Maria, CA.  Ace Barnes and James Tuppin are oil well fire fighters from Livingston, TX, and Ace became a fire fighter after burning his face as a drilling contractor in 1949.  The workers of Weirton Steel in Weirton, VA actually purchased the company in order to maintain their way of life.  Frank and Dave Pino from Waltham, MA lead a rock band named after their town, but haven’t given up their blue-collar day jobs yet.  John “Yac” Yacobellis is a bike messenger from New York City who is skilled at darting through traffic.  James Andrews III is the lead singer and trumpeter of the New Birth Brass Band in New Orleans, and his little brother, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, is a skilled trombone player at the young age of sixteen.  The Art Car Festival, held every year in Berkeley, CA showcases cars that have a bunch of weird things attached to them.  Paul Stone is an “explosive artist” from Creede, CO who does things like firing canon balls into the side of junked cars and rolling flaming bowling balls into a stack of TV sets for his own (and the town’s) amusement.  Patty Wagstaff is an aerobatic pilot in St. Augustine, FL who does dangerous stunts in her airplane.  Amelia Rudolph from Muir Beach, CA is the founder of Project Bandaloop, a troop of “cliff dancers,” which are people who rappel down a mountainside and then start dancing while attached by their ropes.  Dan Klennert from Elbe, WA is a “junk artist,” which is someone who makes art out of junk (scrap metal for Dan specifically.)  Charles Jimmie Sr. is a Tlingit Indian Elder from Klukwan, AK who does a ceremony once a year in which he releases an ailing eagle that had been nursed back to health into the wild again.  David Krakauer is a Klezmer clarinetist in New York City who plays for the Eldridge Street Synagogue.  The Vasquez Brothers are salsa dancers from Los Angeles who emigrated from their home country for the opportunities that the USA provides.  Michael Bennett is a boxer from Chicago who went from being behind bars for armed robbery to becoming the captain of the US Olympic Boxing Team.  Erik Weihenmayer is a blind mountain climber from Ouray, CO who has climbed Mt. Everest.  Reverend Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani lead the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, and they feed over a million poor people a year with the help from their volunteers.  Rick Hoyt is a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy from Boston who ran the Boston Marathon with the help of his father Dick.


This movie was screened for MoveAmericaForward.org, an Internet-based organization that was set up earlier last month by a politically conservative public relations firm to go against Fahrenheit 9/11.  My guess is that they wanted to tie their horse to any flag-waving flick to battle Moore, and this one was the closest thing that they could find.  Unfortunately, while many of the tales are inspirational, the movie overall is exceedingly dull.  It’s only 84 minutes long, but I found myself checking my cell phone clock several times, hoping that the next story was the last.

You could see the same kind of content in America’s Heart and Soul on several documentaries airing on the Discovery Channel or PBS, and it would only cost you the price of basic cable, which if you want a decent signal, you already pay.  Honestly, I felt more patriotic watching the 1996 disaster flick Independence Day than I did watching this one.  If you don’t mind watching a bland documentary, check it out, since some of the tales were mildly interesting (I noticed that the best ones came from my home state of Colorado…not to toot my state’s horn or anything), but I’ll just stay home and watch Will Smith battle aliens for my patriotic fix.


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