Film and drama

REVIEW: David Bradbury's documentary 'America and Me'

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(Image via Frontline Films)

David Bradbury’s latest film documentary 'America and Me' is currently screening around Australia. Chris Mordd Richards was invited to review this gripping narrative of modern America.

DAVID BRADBURY IS AN Australian filmmaker with 21 different films to his name and he's been producing documentaries since he began his career in 1972.

Nominated twice for an Academy Award and the recipient of five Australian Film Institute awards, he has won many international film festival prizes over the span of his career.

America and Me is Bradbury's latest film documentary, which chronicles his time in the U.S. during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

While travelling through eight different American cities on tour for another documentary, wrote RMIT's Kim Munro, Bradbury:

' ... chronicled what was happening on the streets of America; 40 years after Ronald Reagan introduced the economic theories of Milton Friedman and the infamous Chicago Boys to the world.'

The film is screening around the country at the moment, but if you have missed the screening in your city, you can watch the film on demand online instead.

IA asked Bradbury to summarise why you should watch the film, this was his response:

The film portrays a message of how, from the Vietnam War to the War on Terror, American citizens have paid a heavy price for their nation's destructive desire to wage imperialistic wars. Bradbury looks at the vast homeless populations present in many of the cities he visited on his trip. These people are paying the price for the affluence of the military industrial complex and a nation that has left them behind in the process, all in the name of capitalist development and corporate power.

With often haunting music accompanying various parts of the film, America and Me is an eyes-wide-open look at modern America and some of it's most downtrodden citizens, including homeless military veterans who fought in major American offensives. Bradbury looks at how war is an integral part of American life and is a major source of employment for many low-income Americans — until the battle is over and post-traumatic stress disorder has set in.

The film also comments on the fact that the billions in industrial military complex spending are a major part of the American economic system itself and how it props up the propaganda of America as the self-appointed sheriff of the world.

The film also looks at how the American military base Pine Gap in the Australian outback plays an integral role in American offensive operations around the world. It shows how the Australian military industrial complex companies here are the major beneficiaries of the American-Australian military alliance. From the Vietnam War to the threat of war with North Korea today, Australia has long played a pivotal and close role alongside American combat units in many wars over the last few decades.

While the footage of the war against protesters at Standing Rock in the film is interesting from it's own perspective, it feels like the film does not tie the two narratives of the American foreign wars and events at Standing Rock together as clearly as it could have. The methods used against protesters at Standing Rock were military-like, but they pale in comparison to the scenes of actual war shown in Chile, Nicaragua and other locations in the film from previous wars America has been involved in.

Independent Australia put this last comment to Bradbury, thinking maybe we didn’t understand the point he was trying to make and his response made a lot of sense. Bradbury said he was happy to “wear that criticism” and that this film had broken his own cardinal rule of filmmaking in a way, as the aim is to always “leave the audience wanting more, not less”.

Bradbury explained how the

“... environmental aspect of what Standing Rock represents … reflects the inability of the anti-war movements and the environmental movement in both the U.S. and Australia to see that they should be on the same page and working together for the Greater Good."

He continued that, as the U.S. military is the “biggest user of fossil fuels on the planet”, here is a cross-over between environmental activism and anti-war activism, which “the environmental movement tends to forget or move around diplomatically”.

Overall, the film is an interesting portrayal of modern American life through the lens of American military imperialism, and the suppression of protesters both foreign and domestic. If this is an area of interest to you, the film will be sure to entertain and inform.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film myself and, although I am admittedly an American culture junkie, I can strongly recommend it. The cinematic storytelling and flow of the film were very well constructed. It was all accompanied by excellent audio composition and haunting character stories shown throughout the film.

At times a gut-wrenching and soulful portrayal of modern American life, I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

A screener copy of the film and a ticket to the Canberra screening were made available to Independent Australia for the purpose of writing this piece.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @Mordd_IndyMedia.

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