- Gregory Nava's On the American Dream in the 20th Century: The American Tapestry
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 30, Number 1, March, 2000
- pp. 70-71
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Various | In the 20th Century: A Look at the Millennium through the Eyes ofSome of Hollywood's Most Noted Directors world of the 1950s sitcom as compared to the overt parody of The Simpsons or Married, with Children. But even though historically incomplete, Norman Jewison on Comedy in the 20th Century: Funny is Money is a slick, well-produced documentary, and while some of its explorations of the world of comedy may seem digressive , all paths lead back home, offering important insights into the problems that plague comic production. Though many of the comedians, producers, and journalists interviewed are critical of the commercial side of comedy, there's no denying that comedy, as all art, has had a close, if uncomfortable, relationship with commerce. Perhaps what is more ennobling about the documentary is that it demonstrates how comedy has been able to serve as an avenue for expression despite economic and social restrictions . Indeed, though Funny is Money treats its subject in all seriousness, we're reminded of the transcendent power of comedy as Jewison and his crew crumble into laughter as the occasional interview subject, like Jackie Mason with his tirade on Madonna's incessant attempts to shock, reminds them that when all is said and done, funny is something more than just money. Hannu Salmi University of Turku firstname.lastname@example.org Gregory Nava's On theAmerican Dream in the 20th Century: TheAmerican Tapestry. Gregory Nava's documentary, The American Tapestry, begins with a montage that could be characterized as audiovisual historical narration: it is a polyphonic account, the aim of which is not to offer any single "truth." In this opening sequence a series of people from different ethnic backgrounds express their conceptions of the American Dream. "To become rich and never have to work again," says a teenager . "To get away from the ghetto," says a black man. "The American Dream has nothing to do with me," argues a girl of Asian origin. Furthermore, we hear the statement certainly shared by the director as well: "There is not one single American Dream, I say there are many American Dreams." These various ideas ofwhat the American Dream is or might be form the mental landscape of the American tapestry, into which director Gregory Nava is leading his audience. As a whole, being a collection of testimonies and personal experiences of American mythology, Nava's film is almost more an aural than a visual account. The images shown are not particularly surprising, but the stories, accompanied by John Adams' intensive music, capture the spectator . The narrator himself seems to give space for this oral history. He does not employ a narrative voice-over, so typical ofTV documentaries, nor has he indicated his own position by cinematic means: he has highlighted what people really say, how they remember their past, and how they conceive their dreams. Nava's method of exploring the American Dream is to juxtapose different, sometimes virtually opposite , views. After the opening montage, the film dives into the turn-of-the-century world through the memories of two immigrants. In what seems an attempt to expose the double standard of American immigration policy, Nava intertwines 70 I Film & History Regular Feature | Film Reviews the perspectives of a Polish and a Chinese immigrant. The Chinese Exclusion Act of the 1880s tried to limit the flow of Asian immigrants, while European newcomers were concurrently received with open arms. Both Asians and Europeans were tempted by the myth of personal success, the idea that in America it was possible to break the boundaries of social classes, to find freedom and prosperity. An interesting approach would be to analyze more closely the myth of success outside America: what kind of mental images were attached to America in Europe or Asia? These images influenced how those immigrants reacted to their experiences once having landed in the new world. America as a mental construct has undoubtedly been of great significance—and it still is, as we can well understand in the end of the film when Nava presents an agonized Mexican mother trying to get over the border in order to be able to better educate her children. The American Dream has certainly...