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Movie Review: 2000 NYUFF: Day 6, Part 3: Amerikan Passport

China's Forbidden City

I got home sometime after midnight from the 2000 New York Underground Film Festival cause the trains were all messed up and immediately finished transcribing Day 2 journal entries and posted them to the Underground Film Journal. All I want to do is pass out from exhaustion, but I have to write this since I don’t know when else I’ll have the chance. I ain’t getting up early that’s for sure.

Yesterday, I described The Drowning Room as the most ambitious film of the fest. I have to change that to the most ambitious fictional film of the fest. Amerikan Passport blows away just about everything else I’ve seen with the exception of Chris Wilcha’s The Target Shoots First.

Amerikan Passport is a Commie Pinko documentary about Reed Paget’s two-year odyssey across the globe to some of the most volatile hotspots in recent history.

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Reed was just a young twentysomething in the late ’80s-early ’90s with an idealistic goal to make a documentary about the Seven Wonders of the World. However at his first stop, the Great Wall of China, Reed got caught up in the Tiananmen Square Massacre. He was actually filming the Wall when the tanks rolled into the square, but he got back in time to film the charred corpses of soldiers and the blood flowing like rivers on the floors of the hospital.

From there, Reed snuck into Cambodia with a female British journalist to film the ruins of Angkor Wat. Though there are soldiers at every turn and landmines scattered everywhere still left over from the war twenty years ago, Reed and his friend make it out alive. And Reed only goes back home to Seattle because his money runs out.

But visiting war-torn countries becomes and obsession to Reed, So, he saves up enough cash and gets enough credit cards to take a trip to Nicaragua to film the failed election of Daniel Ortega and the election of a U.S. backed stooge. Ortega was the leader of the socialist Sandinista government and the American military taught the Contra “freedom fighters” how to intimidate the general populace to oust Ortega from office.

Then after bumming around Central and South America for awhile, Reed and his new companion Stephanie traveled across the world to South Africa where Nelson Mandela had just been freed and the country was struggling with the end of Apartheid.

Though Reed failed to film Apartheid actually crumbling, he did catch the Berlin Wall coming down. Then, after a mini-side trip to Russia, Reed attempted to get into Iraq right after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. But Reed only got as far as Jerusalem where the threat of a nerve gas attack by Hussein hangs in the air.

I called Amerikan Passport a Commie Pinko film strictly tongue-in-cheek, but the film is colored by Reed’s leftist leanings, particularly highlighted by his conversations with his very conservative grandfather. After witnessing Tiananmen Square, Reed basically set out to document some really horrible injustices in the world. Reed also seems genuinely fascinated in good old-fashioned Communism vs. Capitalism debates that are peppered throughout the movie.

Amerikan Passport is a very personal film, but also a great travelogue about how messed up the world was ten years ago. Not that things aren’t still messed up, but the events Reed documents are pretty bleak.

Continue on to 2000 NYUFF: Day 7, Part 1: Short Films

Go back to 2000 NYUFF: Day 6, Part 2: Short Films


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