New America -series is a collection of five films: Rat Film, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun, El Mar La Mar, INAATE/SE, Whose Streets? The Curator of the series producer Pamela Cohn writes about the themes in her foreword:
”What did the group of rich white men we call the Founding Fathers of the United States of America have in mind as the overall idea of the newly-formed nation? Land of the free, home of the brave came much later as words from the national anthem, still sung with gusto at ball games and other patriotic events. But the country was founded at a time when whites owned blacks as slaves, slaves being non-persons, and women had no rights whatsoever. The Native American population was being slaughtered in record numbers and their ancestral lands stolen. Two hundred and forty-two years later we, as a nation, have still not recovered.
These five film selections from the past year, in one way or another – whether from a White, Black or Native American perspective – deal with race, the overarching theme of present-day American society. Besides free-for-all gun policies, perverts in power, and an absolutely beastly man ensconced in the White House busy destroying the free world with his thumbs, race relations is the preoccupation of the majority of American citizens, whatever side they might fall. All of which is to say that we are far from any kind of emancipated society, no matter the political rhetoric.
As well, all these films tackle huge themes in a very hand-made, deeply personal way. Travis Wilkerson‘s guilt-ridden exegesis centers on his white supremacist great-grandfather who killed an unarmed African-American man in 1946 Alabama as told in Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? Sabaah Folayan, the director of Whose Streets?, has stated that: ‘Every day Americans experience a mediascape that humanizes whiteness, delving into the emotional lives of privileged white protagonists while portraying people of color as two-dimensional (and mostly negative) stereotypes. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the case of Mike Brown, who, in spite of being college bound and well regarded by his community, was portrayed as a ‘thug’ and a ‘criminal’. For this reason, it is essential that Black people be the ones to tell our own true stories.’ Michael Brown’s murder by police in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 triggered mass riots and the genesis of the Black Lives Matter movement.
As a group, I think these films have the possibility to resonate with one another in ways that can deepen a foreigner’s curiosity of what it feels like to live in today’s America. This means to be an enticement to experience all five films in conversation with one another. Two of the five titles are posed as questions, and sure enough, here you will find that the inquiries far outweigh any answers or resolutions. It’s also not lost on me that all of these films were directed by white men with the exception of INAATE/SE – still men, but Ojibway. Whose Streets? is one of the very rare films made anywhere by a woman of color.”