In Competition — “My Dear Americans”

My Dear Americans lead

Today, I’m featuring director Arpita Kumar and producer Minnie Chen’s short film “My Dear Americans.” It’s competing in PBS’s Online Film Festival.

It’s a brilliant short story, only 7 minutes long, and let’s you share a unique day with a Sikh family celebrating the Fourth of July. It’s touching, and invites us into the private lives of characters you don’t often get to see on television or in the movies.

And that’s the thing, they’re not that different from you or me or the next guy. When something very painful happens, they react like you or I or anyone else does, yet they draw an admirable strength that underlines the resilience and optimism that drives people to immigrate to the United States in the first place.

From a filmmaking perspective, the best part of “My Dear Americans” is how well it creates empathy through its technical elements. It’s a superb example of how to choose shallow focus shots. They set the film’s crisp yet graceful, lyrically edited tone, but they also invite us closer to the wife’s perspective. Combined with over-the-shoulder and behind-the-back shots, they establish trust and shared perspective between the wife and the viewer. It all aids in subtly shifting you into watching from her perspective, creating that empathy and striking you right in the chest when that painful moment in the film comes.

That we’re then invited to share in a moment of intimate weakness is something special – it’s a hard moment to set up and realize properly in a full-length feature, let alone a 7-minute short, and this moment of emotion, of pure breakdown, is one of the most heartfelt scenes I’ve seen in any film this year. Both performers deserve appreciation. This is an important, important film that doesn’t tackle something new as much as it tackles something we shy away from, and it does it with profound emotional resonance.

So what are you still reading me for? Watch it and, if you like it, vote for it in PBS’s Online Film Festival.

(And if you love it like I do, vote for it in good, old-fashioned Chicago-style: several times. You’re allowed to vote for it once every 24 hours, until the festival ends on July 31!)

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