On Friday October 11th HBO held an event to celebrate the upcoming film “Liberty: Mother of Exiles” – a powerful documentary that gets into the very fabric of what America is really made of.
The film takes on a subject that is hidden in plain sight, the Statue of Liberty, and begs us to reconsider why this 1885 French made gift represents the true spirit of the American project. This documentary promotes these self-reflective inquiries in 2019 when those last few words of the pledge of allegiance, “…with liberty and justice for all…” seem to have been almost entirely eclipsed a rising sense of nationalism that we see on every news channel. HBO’s new documentary pulls us closer together than any other documentary this year.
The gallery event, #Liberty2Me puts us into the heart of the conversation. It was an evening to celebrate the common thread that holds us together but never at the sacrifice of our differences, diversity, and contradictions. Like a large quilt (a specific to early americana) we are reminded that we stand as a unified people despite our great variance. This is what makes US great. This spirit reflected itself in the original Josh Telles photography that lined the gallery space. Each headshot, either of known HBO talent or regular ol’city dwellers, was accompanied by personal answers to the question: What is Liberty to You? No answer was the same. Yet they were all valid. Each of them represented a fraction of the available spectrum of possibility for what liberty can be ensuring us that no answer is incorrect.
In this way, the documentary posits an argument for heterogeneity; for this is the power which Lady Liberty stands. A quote from the original poem dedicated to the statue (which is read aloud in the documentary by a multiplicity of familiar voices) makes it clear that the great experiment of the United States wrests on the fact that the country stands with opens arms. This speaks to the subtitle of the film, “Mother of Exiles” who promised that there would be a generous home for us all. Us misfits. Us young families. Us artists. Us entrepeneurs. A quote from the film, describing Liberty’s 130 year covenant, says it all: “From her beacon hand glows worldwide welcome.”
The film helps us re-examine that famous New York torch to show us that it gives a light that shines for all who seek to their unique freedom; how every day in the great world series of our American lives we are liberated to go and find our own happiness. HBO jumps into some of the hottest discussions clearly stating that our strength is not the unity of our sameness, but the ability to stand together as opposites and counterparts in order to show how freely held together we are. That is the single quality which makes this country stand out. #Liberty2US