I’ve seen lots of documentaries of people touring America, but what makes this one special is that Codrescu is an immigrant and a poet, and he also has a wit that’s acerbic yet simultaneously self-effacing. His narrative is often hilarious but one can feel his true sense of awe and vulnerability in facing a nation as huge and diverse as the United States. A reviewer here attacks Codrescu for going out of his way to find the most eccentric elements of this country, but that’s the whole point of making a documentary about America. It takes an outsider, especially one from a country where conformity is enforced politically, to give us a true appreciation of what a grand, quirky, kitschy, innovative, imaginative, visionary nation we are. We are a nation of materialists, free thinkers, and spiritualists, but despite the differences in our values and backgrounds, we have one thing in common: the fact that we are lucky to live in a country where we have the freedom to be different. Codrescu could have chosen to just walk along the streets of some suburban community, or a mall, or maybe even Walmart but I can guarantee you, he would have still found any number of eccentrics. We may not personally relate to reclusive religious communities, gun-wielding centerfolds, or people who run drive-in wedding chapels, but we can be in awe of the imagination and drive that Americans have in reaching beyond the confines of ‘normalcy’. If Codrescu had been able to make a documentary without showing the ‘fringes’ of our society, it not only would have been dull, it would have been a disservice to the spirit of America. I for one, will never forget the ‘Holy Rollers’ (members of a gospel church in a roller-skating rink), the Native Americans still living in an ancient pueblo, the ‘crystal’ lady, the ‘alien’ lady, or the couple trying to make art out of discarded shoes. I see an image of each of these people in each star of the flag, and it is that America that I truly love. My only complaint about the movie is that Codrescu didn’t make it to the southern region of the US, but hopefully, one day he’ll get to complete the trip.
My grade: 8