“American Selfie: One Nation Shoots Itself” – Shrieking to the choir [MOVIE REVIEW]
by Neely Swanson
“American Selfie,” written, directed, and produced by Alexandra Pelosi, is exactly what we do not need in this moment.
Pelosi, starting in September 2019, begins by focusing on the most narcissistic and materialistic aspects of American society – the mania of the Selfie photo craze and the hysteria of people waiting hours in line to buy the new iPhone. It’s the “me, me, me” along with the “I want, I want, I want.” But this is misleading because she soon launches into what she sees as the ever widening chasm between what she sees as the two faces of America.
After her initial foray into the trivial pursuits of the young and well off, she then proceeds into the antagonistic groups advocating guns vs those against; pro-lifers and their hostile “baby killer” rhetoric vs the “my body, my choice” women. Each month highlights different hostile forces that we have come to see on the news every night.
Whether it is gun-toting militias demanding their second amendment rights or those men and women who continue to declare that Covid 19 is a hoax. Do not tread on me is synonymous with “I won’t wear a mask.” Of course there is the cacophony (you can’t call it a dialogue) brought on by racists who don’t see racism, complete with footage of police tear gassing peaceful demonstrations.
Pelosi has shown herself to be an excellent documentarian in the past with “Journeys with George,” but in this case what she has created is a polemic. There is no constructive dialogue and she is transparent in her disdain for those with whom she disagrees. I’m totally on her side of the political spectrum but I believe, perhaps naively, that documentaries should educate and thoughtfully present the case even of those with whom you disagree. Yes, America is shooting itself. You can call this patricide, matricide, suicide but whatever you call it, this is diatribe.
I am totally in support of masks and shutdowns of businesses that have been shown to spread the virus. The men and women whose livelihoods have been endangered and ruined because of these rules are portrayed as angry and unyielding. They are but perhaps she might have dug a bit deeper to show some of the pain rather than all of the visceral anger.
“American Selfie” adds nothing to the conversation and that is a pity. I would have thought that Sheila Nevins, her executive producer and formerly the President of HBO Documentary Films, the gold standard, might have been able to guide Pelosi toward a more nuanced position. Apparently not, or perhaps this is exactly what her new employer, MTV Documentary Films was after. However you look at it, don’t look at it.
Premiering on Showtime on Friday, October 23.