American Selfie: One Nation Shoots Itself rolls back time to ongoings of politics and social issues’ intersections with commodity, capitalism, technology, and vanity. From the maskless fall of 2019 to the chants of Summer 2020 protests, filmmaker and journalist Alexandra Pelosi, exposes the ongoing chasms in United States cities.
America has become a frequent specimen under Pelosi’s microscope. Journeys with George, Right America: Feeling Wronged – Some Voices from the Campaign Trail, and Meet the Donors: Does Money Talk? documented the campaigns for the current and past two presidential administrations—giving the Pelosi name another meaning in the capital besides her mother, Nancy.
This time, Alexandra Pelosi examined the nation as it nears either a second-term presidency or a new one. She used the current White House website as a map for shooting the feature-length documentary, executive-produced by Sheila Nevins. There, President Donald Trump lists his accomplishments—and in hot spots for those list items, Pelosi grabbed her handheld camera and took to the streets. “I tried to curate an experience that advertises those accomplishments,” she said. As a result, this is documentary pieces together social media conversations and headlines culminating in the election year. Each month of 12 months got a unique issue covered. September 2019 began Pelosi’s feat with climate change.
“I went to the rollout of the new iPhone to make fun of people who would wait in line to buy a new iPhone, “ said Pelosi in production notes. But in the end, one 17-year-old girl pulled out her iPhone and filmed eight minutes of George Floyd being murdered and that changed the course of history.”
What ensues for the next 11 months is a game of spot the -isms and their endless subcategories. An abridged list would include topics like: environmentalism, Indigenous rights, xenophobia, consumerism, cis-heteronormativity, gun rights and reform, domestic terrorism, poverty and classism, racism, police brutality, religious freedom, abortion, performative activism, grocery-hoarding, social distancing and lockdown, and mask mandates.
Pelosi visited the sites of mass shootings, border conflicts, championship games, big box stores, temporary morgues, state and federal offices, and more.
The documentary shadows an unfortunate reality unfiltered in its chaotic mess. You will spend 90 minutes questioning humanity. You will toe the brink of having lived cognizantly through the last 12 months yet feel like a shocked third party looking in on a surprisingly undistorted fishbowl of red, white, and blue.
“Is America broken?” Pelosi asks in the film.
“Yes, we, we’ve absolutely broken ourselves. It’s a broken system,” replies a Las Vegas resident. “But that’s okay because sometimes things can still be fixed. You just need to actually put the work in and recognize that there’s a problem.” He continues walking past the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino—the site of the America’s deadliest mass shooting in modern history.
“There’s two Americas, separate and unequal,” a Super Bowl fan argues as Colin Kaepernick’s former team, the San Francisco 49ers, vies against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“But at the end of the day, you cannot kill community. We are a community, we are one, and we will stand in solidarity, and we will be back!” commands a Manhattan bar owner closing shop for coronavirus regulations.
The documentary shadows an unfortunate reality unfiltered in its chaotic mess. You will spend 90 minutes questioning humanity. You will toe the brink of having lived cognizantly through the last 12 months yet feel like a shocked third party looking in on a surprisingly undistorted fishbowl of red, white, and blue. You will feel utterly and completely uncomfortable knowing we let America get like this.
But maybe, just maybe, you will feel inspired to create change.
“It’s just really a dark chapter in American history,” Pelosi told The Knockturnal.
American Selfie: One Nation Shoots Itself premieres October 23, 2020 on Showtime, 9 p.m. EST.