In his documentary My America, Roper has managed to show there's still strength to fight, which he has found deeply present across America’s adolescent generation. By giving voices to those who usually aren’t listened to, he created a moving and necessary film addressing some of the issues America is facing with now. But, as Roper says, it’s not about politics. We sat down with the artist to find out why.
My America has obviously come at a poignant time, considering our political climate, what was your original inspiration for this film?
I had been living in NYC for 10 years and in 2016 I moved back to the UK just as Brexit happened. Then the USA elections happened, the inauguration, and by then I was feeling very anxious about the future and where we were going. People always say to me, “It’s middle America’s fault,” and I never understood that. So I wanted to go and see for myself and do a film about the next generation.
I wanted to find out what they thought and what they were doing to push themselves forward. The easy option was to shoot the film in NYC and LA, lots of freethinking and expressive people. But that was not who I was interested in. You see these people everyday walking down the street, happily expressing their individuality. I wanted to go and meet people who I would not normally meet or see.
What do you want your audience to take away after watching it?
This is not a political film; this film is about hope and strength within the youth of a country. I want to show their fight, their togetherness, and their hope. I want people to think that we all have a part to play in this world and you have to fight for what you want: you have to contribute. The youth of the world need to be listened to.
It’s hard not to think of Parkland when watching My America—how do you think kids can help in ways that adults can’t? Or how do you think kids’ views on the world are different than most adults’ right now?
They have the energy, they understand technology, but they are only just figuring out that they have so much power. It’s all about momentum and they have to keep fighting even after the press leaves. They need to take the fight to their government. The kids from Parkland have now organized themselves and they have said, “No more, this situation is bullshit!” And that is amazing because it is very simply bullshit that people can walk into a school and kill so many people over and over and over again. Some of the individualities in My America had more strength and fight in them than I have ever seen. Adults sit there and think that the system is corrupt and there is no saving it. But that’s not true there is hope, and you beat the system piece by piece. “The crowd” is the future. If the youth from every culture and background came together, it would be an unstoppable force.
Obviously there are a lot of ways in which the film industry needs to improve, what are some ways you think it can do that?
1. Inclusion: having a more balanced industry in pay, gender, and ethnicity.
2. Film is about stories yes, but it is also about showing ideas, creativity and magic. So let people be more creative and let them express themselves.
3. Have more outlets to show new work.
4. Have more programs to help young filmmakers produce films.
- Directed by Barnaby Roper
- Produced by Taylor Vandegrift
- UPM: Brandon Robinson, DP: Isaac Bauman, AC: Payam Yazdandoost, Sound Mixer: Clint Allday, Drone Pilot: Gabe de la Parra