The Christian Broadcasting Network

Movie Info




July 2004




Roudy Roudebush, Ann Savoy, Marc Savoy, Mosie Burks, Minnie Bates Yancey


Louis Schwartzberg


Walt Disney Pictures


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America's Heart and Soul

By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter - It’s Friday night, you’re looking through the entertainment section of the paper, searching for a film the whole family can enjoy. You spot the ad for America’s Heart & Soul. You’ve heard of it. But, someone says, “It’s a documentary.”

“A documentary!” you exclaim. “Who wants to see a documentary on a Friday night?” So you pass onto the next advertisement. Big mistake. Huge mistake.

At the press screening, I turned to a friend about midway through the film and told her, “I don’t want this to end.” That’s something I have never said about a movie. Funny, moving, insightful, breathtaking, inspiring, it’s everything you want in a movie-going experience. Best of all, it’s a wonderful example of how film can unite people.

A gifted documentarian, Louis Schwartzberg has packed up his camera and hit the road, with a goal of capturing both the unparalleled beauty of the U.S. and the incomparable spirit of its people. Unobtrusively, the filmmaker delves into the lives of ordinary Americans, who just so happen to have extraordinary stories, seamlessly blending their values, dreams, and passions into a spirited and well-paced film-event.

In an era of “reality” programming that generally focuses on the negative and cynical, America’s Heart & Soul gives us a positive and powerful glimpse into the diversity of our country’s citizenry. It celebrates our commonality – our innermost need to dream and to find our place.

"America's Heart and Soul"Some of the vignettes will cause your sides to ache from laugher, while others will bring a tear to your eye. Just to spotlight a very few: There’s the aged gospel singer who joyfully proclaims, “I’m a child of the King,” as she prances across the stage, defying her years; the Appalachian woman who profoundly, and rather poetically, analyzes the human experience; the father/son team who enter a marathon, the younger man suffering from ALS, the father professing, “I’m the legs, he’s the heart”; the sculptor who collects junk, calling it “rusty gold” and finding love and respect through his art; the blind mountain climber who has a grateful appreciation for what he has; and the salsa dancers who evidence the skill and interpretation of dance.

The documentary also pays homage to our nation’s religious beliefs, paying close attention to uplifting gospel music and several visuals that spotlight the Christian faith, while still other portions examine the eccentric, the inspiring and the emotional traits that make up the mutt-like pedigree that is uniquely American.

I’d suggest sharing this cinematic treasure with friends, half the fun being the appreciative discussion during the drive home.

Note: The film is rated PG. I found nothing objectionable or exploitive. The intent of the filmmaker is to present a positive view of what America is and what it can become.

Phil Boatwright is the editor of The Movie Reporter. For more information, visit Review used by permission.

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