Hungarian-Australian filmmaker Peter Hegedus took a lot onto his plate when he decided to produce his documentary My America, a look at what's happened to his pubescent American dream in a post-9/11, economically unstable society. He travels around the world, imploring people from China to Kenya to Los Angeles to voice their concerns to President Barack Obama via a confession booth.
Hegedus has been touring the film around the United States and will bring it to the Olde North Charleston Picture House tonight for a special Friday night screening hosted by the Greater Park Circle Film Society. We asked Hegedus a few questions about the film:
City Paper: This is addressed in the film, but really, on a personal level, how hard was it to try to make a film about such a broad topic as the American Dream?
Peter Hegedus: It was extremely difficult. I probably would not do anything like this again for a long time! It’s one thing to think about an idea and another to make it happen. I just had no clue about the challenges that lay ahead.
CP: Is there anything we didn’t hear from the confession booth that you think is important? Maybe an overall theme or concern that people expressed?
PH: No I think most things were said well in the booth. What was the overarching feeling from the messages is the way most people looked toward America as a beacon of light. Obama and the U.S. seem to offer a sense of hope to a lot of people around the world.
CP: A lot has happened in the U.S. since you filmed My America, from the good (Osama Bin Laden’s death) to the bad (the Republican primary season). Knowing all this, would anything in your film have changed?
PH: I am sure it would have, but we had to finish the film at some point! But yes, it would have been great to include all these new facts and events. Also, if I had a chance to edit the film, now I am sure I would be making a slightly different film because I am a different person now.
CP: Have you been able to keep in touch with some of your subjects from the film? If so, what are their current lives like? I know I was hoping for an epilogue about your sister (who loses her job during the course of the film).
PH: I just stayed with my sister last week in New Orleans and that was great. She is doing OK now and has started up her photography business. She is very talented. I have also been in touch with other people from the film — like Omar in Kenya and Jesse in South Carolina.
CP: What kind of response have you been getting on your country-wide tour? And what are you personally learning about America that you didn’t know before?
PH: The responses have been very positive, I have to say. It is very exciting to see that people here in the U.S. can also relate to the love and hate relationship I felt about America. They too have that. People really appreciate the personal journey. I am not only learning about America but I am also learning about myself as part of this tour. My feeling is that America is a very complex place, difficult to pin down. Just like anything it has its positive and negative aspects.
CP: What do you hope people take out of the film?
PH: I hope that people would be able to relate my personal journey back to their lives. Perhaps now they see their own country (if we’re talking about American here) in a different light. They appreciate it more and can see how diverse it really is. Furthermore, they can also see how people around the world view America and America’s actions in the world.