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Outsider Visions of Americana

In any other year, “Americana” would be a loaded word. It’s an umbrella term meant to encapsulate the values and guiding philosophies from many different viewpoints while also serving as a representation of the rich variety of experiences in the United States. But in an election year in which seemingly every faction of the country has been polarized by disagreement, it’s notable that so much American cinema has worked to define America almost solely from a vision of the past.

To be fair, films about Americana are often, by definition, about the past, presenting a rarefied version of an earlier time period to comment on cultural transitions and national evolution. Diverse films ranging from “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “The Straight Story” and “Days of Heaven” have all centered on this topic. But nostalgia feels prevalent in the films of 2016, whether it’s the biblical superstition of “The Witch,” the baby boomer malaise of “Indignation,” or the naturalist Eden of the setting of the Pacific Northwest in “Pete’s Dragon.” And while those films offer a stirring, trenchant examination of the “American” experience, they shy away from grand proclamations about the current state of the country… read more >

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