Documentary film AMERICA'S HEART AND SOUL is a series of shorts about people who live in the United States and who are--in a kooky, brave, inventive, or otherwise offbeat way--outstanding Americans. The portraits are unrelated, but they are linked by a romantic patriotism, as if the film is rhetorically asking, aren't Americans something else? Director Louis Schwartzberg combines his own color-saturated aerial footage (taken in locations from the Continental Divide to the Vermont countryside) with wonderful vignettes about people who live extraordinary livesthat add to the richness of our national identity.
Take, for example, John "Yac" Yacobellis, a legendary bike messenger from New York, revered by his colleagues, who earns $200 a day narrowly avoiding car doors swinging into his path. Or the fledgling rock band Waltham, who work blue collar jobs in Massachusetts by day to support their hard-rocking nights. Patty Wagstaff, the three-time aerobatic flyer champion, describes the sensation of aerial loops, and tells how the dangers of her job keep her focused. Also featured in this long lineup of characters is Michael Bennett, who served time for armed robbery, turned his life around, and ended up on the Olympic boxing team. Even Ben Cohen (co-owner of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream enterprise) offers his two cents about growing a business from a small mom-and-pop shop a major brand.
Schwartzberg's film, illustrated by inspirational sayings and uplifting majestic music, leaves one with the sensation of being cheered into a bubble of stalwart national pride. Schwartzberg formerly directed commercials, and his project has all the sparkle of a Coca-Cola ad. But audiences will nonetheless be struck by the film's essential truth: America is filled with complex, talented, and unusual folks--and that's something to feel good about.