Anthem

on July 25, 1997 by Jon Alon Walz
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Francis Ford Coppola once said that he dreamed of a world in which every person who wanted it had access to simple and affordable moviemaking equipment, which would ultimately spawn an exciting new wave of filmmaker--one constrained only by imagination, not by budget. Although this dream of "pure" content has remained almost wholly unrealized in this time of discount camcorders, one will, on occasion, have the pleasure of witnessing a realization of this dream: A film like Shainee Gabel and Kristin Hahn s stunning documentary "Anthem," shot entirely on videotape by two young women with a dream and a tank of gas.
Gable and Hahn quit their Hollywood production jobs and began to travel across the country in a quest to chronicle what is and what has become of the "American Dream." Having stabbed at core of today's American psyche through interviews with dozens of people ranging in influence from waitress to White House aide, out has poured a complex study of the loss of pride and dignity in America, and the burning desire by people of all walks of life for authentic heroes and valiant political leadership.
Most interesting are the points of view shared by a wide array of interviewees. Author Studs Terkel waxes poetic on a lack of moral leadership; filmmaker John Waters shares his early dream equating success to owning a Xerox machine and a black Buick; singer Willie Nelson discusses the environment; Senator George McGovern staunchly defends the Democratic Party platform; and, most affecting, a 20-year-old Pennsylvania gas station attendant resolves himself to a life with no career opportunity.
The film is weakened by never-ending didactic editorials by the filmmakers; there's no need, except for pretense, to continually spoonfeed flowery ideology and summations down the audiences collective throat. Nevertheless, "Anthem" stands as a vital and unique testament to the vigor and scope of the American way of life; this is the rare kind of film that should be placed in a time capsule for future generations so they might have a better appreciation of our moment in history. With Hunter S. Thompson, George Stephanopoulos and Robert Redford. Directed, written and produced by Shainee Gabel and Kristin Hahn. A Zeitgeist release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 124 min.
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