"American Psyche": Reel Lives By Furio Fossati

in 52nd Valladolid International Film Festival

by Furio Fossati

Perhaps the most interesting section at this year’s “Semana Internacional de cine” in Valladolid, was the documentary program “Time of History”. It included 21 documentaries of various lengths from around the world.

Some documentaries worth mentioning are Latent Argentina (Argentina Latente), directed by Fernando Solanas, which deals with the opinions laborers had during the resurrection of their country. The Blues of the East (Les Blues de L’Orient) by Florence Strauss demonstrates how music helps overcome ideological barriers. Manuel De Falla: Musician of two Worlds (Manuel de Falla: Músico de dos mundos) by José Luis Castiñeira de Dios explores the last years of the great musician.

My husband Andrei Sakharov by Latvian Inara Kolman focuses on the fascinating life of the inventor of the Russian atomic bomb, who also defended Russian civil rights for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize. Oswald’s Ghost by Robert Stone explores various assassination theories surrounding the murder of John F. Kennedy. A Place in Cinema (Un lugar en el cine) by Alberto Morais tries to reconstruct the life of Theo Angelopoulos, Victor Erice and Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Another documentary worth seeing is American Psyche by Dutch filmmaker Paul van den Boom. Paul moved in the late ’90s to Montreal, Canada, where he has worked as assistant to directors like Martin Scorsese (The Aviator, 2004) and Richard Donner (Timeline, 2003).

American Psyche seeks to find a perspective on social and political life in America following the events of 11th of September. Crossing the United States from New York to Los Angeles, Paul and François Le Goarant met many Americans of diverse races, genders, religions and socio-economic standing. Interviewing more than 150 persons allowed them to explore the current social and political climate in the United States.

Editor Paul Raphael turned over 100 hours of rushes into this compelling, 55-minute film, that offers a fascinating mosaic of opinions and believes from around the country.

American Psyche is very different compared to documentaries by those of Michael Moore. Moore, who writes a screenplay for each of his “documentary” films, often selects the participants in his films in accordance to his scripted point-of-view. This has led to accusations of manipulation in the past. While Paul van den Boom offers a much more objective insight into American society, giving viewers a chance to shape their own opinions.

Among the people interviewed was Ida Lewis, a journalist of more than 50 years of experience. She worked for “Life”, “L’Express” and “The Washington Post”: in 1971 she was the first black woman in the USA who published a magazine, “Encore: American & Worldwide News”.

Also interviewed was Peter Koper who is an experienced foreign correspondent, and teaches at Columbia University. Wally Brown descended from Navajo Native Americans; Ray Hudson, in the insurance business, transformed his life by becoming Reverend of the “Real Life Methodist Church”. Billy Gale and his old Cadillac Eldorado; Rene Doria a Philippino, who was 18 years old, when he became a Mormon…

Hopefully American Psyche will be shown at festivals around the world, while I’m looking forward to seeing the next film by this young director.