September 2009 - Palling Around with Bill Ayers;
I had the honor to interview Bill Ayers. Bill and I were delighted to be joined by a Born-Again, Libertarian, Ex-Marine, Med-school student on his way to a poetry class who, only after debating health care, stem-cells, and his fears of socialism, recognized that he was, in fact, “Palling’ Around” with non-other than Bill Ayers. Not only did he allow us to tape him at length, but also he brought such ease to the setting that I forgot there were cameras taping us. Bill helped me recognize (in what seemed like a therapy session) that some of my underlying motivation in developing “My Momma Says Obama” is the feeling that I remember having towards my(extremely wealthy, extremely republican) father as he walked out of my hospital room years ago, when I asked for help with the medical bill. That story exemplifies not only the Republican sentiments towards the issue of health care but towards the American public in general.
I truly believe in what Norman Mailer said in an interview with Martin Amis, “America is like a battered wife,” however I feel that our generation could be considered the ‘battered children’ who have grown up unwilling to trust a greater power.
Senator Kennedy, and universal health care;
Juggling my family and my film has been so stressful, and has taken its toll on my health. I developed a more personal angle on the health care debate back in 2009, when I got Shingles and was fortunate to be able to talk to my doctor immediately. He said treatment should begin within 72 hours from the onset, but my heart goes out to other less fortunate Americans who don't have access to health care. Apparently President Obama made Senator Kennedy a promise to work hard for universal health care. When I think of the pain I have made tolerable because I was able to see my doctor immediately I feel lucky but perversely guilty because as Kennedy said "Health care should be a right, not a privilege".
Tom & Jerry
The issue of Heath Care had been on my mind as I grieved the loss of Senator "Teddy" Kennedy. My boy Charlie loves to watch Tom & Jerry, and as it reminds me of my childhood, I don’t mind sitting with him and watching my favorite cat and mouse run across the screen. One episode in particular held my attention the other day as i was thinking of Teddy Kennedy's dream for health care. An egg rolls across the screen and out pops arms and legs. Tom, unaware, sits upon said egg and cracks it, hatching a little duck. The little duckling believes that Tom, a large Grey cat, is indeed his mother and follows him around. Tom attempts to cook the little duckling for dinner, first stuffing him with food then placing him on a roaster. The unassuming duck thinks that “mommy” is taking care of him and simply setting up a bed. Jerry, always the hero, rescues, time and again, the little duckling from the oven to only have the duck run back to its’ murderous “mommy”. The duck repeatedly praises his Tom saying, “mommy will save me, mommy loves me.” Though it seems silly to compare voters and political parties to a cartoon, no model has held so true as this episode of Tom & Jerry. While the Democrats (Jerry) attempt to provide health care and safety for the needy, many citizens are unknowingly putting themselves in a harmful situation by follow the Republicans (Tom), believing, wrongly, that their “mommy” will take care of them. I thank God for lions like Sen. Teddy Kennedy to scare away the Tom cats.
Senator Kennedy's speech;
"And may it be said that we kept the faith. May it be said that we found our faith again. And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have special meaning for me now: I am a part of all that I have met....Tho much is taken, much abides. That which we are, we are-- One equal temper of heroic hearts, Strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die".
My Momma Says Obama.
The story is being told through interviews with journalists, politicians, activists and everyday people.
It is directed by Sam Pollard, whose award-winning documentaries "When The Levees Broke" and "Four Little Girls" have passionately told the stories of Hurricane Katrina and the brutality of racism in the deep south. Sam Pollard's reputation as a storyteller who finds authentic voices and gives clarity to their message is unmatched.
My Momma Says Obama will contribute a voice of social empathy to both sides of the political spectrum and be a reminder of the altruism that once fired the 60’s generation. And like John Lennon asking to give peace a chance, Marlon Brando, rejecting his Oscar in solidarity with the Native Americans at Wounded Knee, and Paul Newman’s, telling audiences not to see his movies in response to the war, we’re showing the bravery of famous and influential people to speak their mind even if it goes against the grain. Our interviews are wide ranging and conversational making it hard to pigeonhole our interviewees in social stereotypes of what is “right”, and “left”.
We want to show both sides of debate to go beyond the media’s polarization of America and to more human territory. Our conversations have covered subjects like the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, in which both sides can agree the death of young people is the country’s greatest tragedy. I have been brought to tears in many of our interviews when discussing these things. Like Paul Newman said regarding the Vietnam War, “if the great majority of Americans think they can slide through this one without feeling any affect from it then of course its going to continue.”
John Lennon said regarding the untapped power of the people, “the system is so geared for everyone to believe that the father will fix everything. The government will fix everything. Blame the government. Shake your fist at the government. But we are the government.” The people put the politicians in power and it is telling of our generation that Barack Obama was elected. Our film is inspired by Marlon Brando’s thoughtful remark on the Dick Cavett show in 1973, “The blacks would still be shuffling around picking peanuts dying and starving ...if they hadn’t made that noise if they hadn’t made that racket... Someone tells us just be quiet, be calm, everything will right itself. Everyone will get their just deserts but it never happens.” These are central to the themes we are exploring in "My Momma Says Obama".
As we see the reversal of the previous administration's policies, the promise made to Middle Class America of an American Dream is attainable again. The hope that seemed lost has been restored and that special bond that Americans always felt they could make with the future is alive again. Norman Mailer said “America is like a battered wife”. Surely this generation are the "battered children" who grew up unwilling to trust government which stole their faith and confidence. These are central to the themes we are exploring in "My Momma Says Obama".
My Momma Says Obama is a documentary film which explores America's evolving social and political landscape in the aftermath of President Obama's election. Beginning with the optimism that was ignited in many by the election, we follow the circle of hope that began with President Kennedy and aspires to completion with President Obama's inauguration.
Many have described me as the female Michael Moore with a dash of Lucille Ball. I have two children and they are usually at my hip while I make phone calls and emails. I am working passionately like Erin Brokovich, except I am not talking to people about the poison in their water.These parts of my life play an integral part in the narrative of the documentary.
PEACE LOVE FREEDOM