TALK TO ME: AMERICANS IN CONVERSATION explores what it means to be an American as the 20th Century draws to a close. Taking a freewheeling, creative approach to this multi-faceted topic, the one-hour public television special juxtaposes imagery of American cultural icons with personal reflections about American identity by noted writers, scholars and "everyday folks" from four very different communities around the country.
"TALK TO ME is a patchwork quilt, a road movie through American history," says director Andrea Simon. "We started with the idea of American identity as a work-in-progress -- something that's still unfolding, and that each of us contributes to every day. That American story isn"t a drama, with a beginning, middle and end. It's an epic -- many tales told in many voices, with different accents and cadences."
TALK TO ME features an exuberant mix of American cultural icons, from traditional folk art and antique quilts to Star Trek, Poltergeistand The Wizard of Oz. A visually stunning array of archival photographs, maps and documents tells the story of how disparate, polyglot groups came together to build a great nation that perpetually reinvents itself. As noted writer (Reviving Ophelia) and psychologist Mary Pipher observes in TALK TO ME,
Everybody that came to America as immigrants came full of hope and full of yearning for more. It is part of our national character to want to improve ourselves, to want more, to want things better, and I think in an odd way that has left us uniquely vulnerable.
Also interviewed in the special are novelist and social commentator Allan Gurganus, (Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All), journalist Rosemary Bray (formerly of The New York Times Book Review), and scholars and historians Ammiel Alcalay, John Mack Faragher, Randall Kennedy, John Kuo Wei Tchen, Gordon Wood, and computer scientist and community organizer Alan Shaw.
TALK TO ME visits four communities in diverse regions of the country to talk with people about their family heritage and personal experiences of being American. Stops are made in
The film's sound track features a rich spectrum of American musical styles, including New England hymns, Cuban-American salsa, Hawaiian slack-key guitar, Chicago rock from Liz Phair, Delta blues, Aaron Copland works, and cutting-edge rock from the Irish-American band Black 47.
TALK TO ME was produced and directed by Andrea Simon, an award-winning filmmaker whose credits include A Jew Is Not One Thing, Destination Mozart: A Night at the Opera with Peter Sellars, Art of Indonesia: Tales of the Shadow World, and The Happiness of Still Life, among others.
TALK TO ME is the broadcast component of A More Perfect Union: Americans in Conversation, a media education project that includes a short discussion-starter video based on the hour-long program, plus resource guides for community and classroom use, co-authored by the Studies Circle Resources Center, a project of the Topsfield Foundation. The special is funded by The National Endowment for the Humanities and presented to public television stations by N-ETV, the Nebraska PBS affiliate. A More Perfect Union is supported by the Ford Foundation; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Rockefeller Foundation; and the Surdna Foundation.
TALK TO ME is part of The Democracy Project, a PBS initiative to stimulate citizen engagement in civic life. The project, launched last fall, combines programming, community outreach, education and World Wide Web activities by PBS and member stations.
Selected Quotes from TALK TO ME
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