Friday, April 24, 2015

The Listening Project Documentary Review by: Christine Albrecht

I just finished watching a 76 minute documentary entitled, “The Listening Project”. The idea for the film was conceived (and co-directed) by Dominic Howes and Joel Weber. It was released by Rikshaw Films in 2008.

The film documents six reporters traveling to fourteen countries, around the world, to enquire what comes to mind when they’re asked, “What do you think of America?” The interviewees (called “Characters”) are from all walks of life, which makes their answers more revealing, as the respondents are not economically or religiously related.

The “Listeners” in the film are the ones interviewing the various “Characters”. I appreciated the attentiveness and respectful responses of the “Listeners”. The “Listeners” are as follows:
Carrie Lennox, teacher. She travelled to South Africa, Japan, and Tanzania.
Bob Roeglin, probation officer. He travelled to Brazil, Russia and England.
Bao Phi, spoken-word artist. He travelled to France, China, and Mexico.
Han Shan, human rights activist. He travelled to Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, Canada and India.

Overall, while Americans appear universally liked, they are also viewed as materialistic, unduly aggressive, selfish, and paranoid. They unrealistically believe their country is the most powerful in the world, whilst in reality, the Characters believe America’s power has been in decline for years.

Despite the film being primarily about the global community’s opinion of America, I also caught a memorable quote about Canada (with regards to the inevitable comparison to the United States of A.). The Character noted "one only needed to observe that the United States has always fought for its country’s independence, whereas Canada has always ‘negotiated’ its country’s independence. Subsequently, on the World stage, Canada is seen as the negotiator, and the USA is seen as a war advocate. (Yesiree, I can happily live with a ‘negotiator’ moniker.)

Interestingly, another Character observed the in-your-face security, which became “amped-up” post 9/11. He agreed there was a need and an expectation of increased security after the 9/11 events. However, he questioned the sizeable cost for the increased security (as it wasn’t that different than prior), and he questioned the apparent racism accompanying the security. As the Character noted, he understood the focus on specific foreign passports, but as the years passed, the focus was changing. Attention was now paid to appearances, especially to ‘dark and swarthy’ coloring, as well as cultural head-covering clothing.

9/11 was the official excuse given for blatant racism exhibited during border checks. Anyone objecting to this uncomfortable scrutiny was deemed “unpatriotic”. Even though America’s population knew border security had become out of control, there was no office they could report to, nor procedure they could follow, to combat the racist infractions. I would be interested in hearing Characters’ opinions in 2015, as opposed to 2007/8, since peace and calm are gradually embracing the USA once again.

This documentary engaged me from beginning to end. The subject matter was interesting and it promoted a lot of dialogue amongst my friends, after our viewing. Despite the years that have passed since its inception, I encourage people to watch this documentary. It’s insightful, and still relevant. You can download it, or watch it online at the following links. Enjoy!

The Listening Projects' awards

2008 Winner of Best Documentary at Durgango independaent film project

2008 winner of “Best Documentary” at Oxford Film Festival

2008 Winner of “Best Documentary” at Omaha Film Festival

2008 “Official Selection” Sedona International Film Festival

2008 “Official Selection” Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

2008 “Official Selection” Newport Beach Film Festival

2008 “Official Selection” Maryland Film Festival

2008 “Official Selection” Vail Film Festival

2008 “Official Selection” Santa Cruz Film Festival