American Folk

American Folk (2017)

There are many quotes that mention letting go of the past or don’t look back; there is a truth behind these ideas but that is not to say certain moments in time should not be rekindled. In today’s world it is difficult not to come across news of racial violence, communities being torn apart or governments crumbling. There was never a time it was perfect they were just slightly better than the rest. In modern history there has been no bigger tragedy than what took place on 9/11. A result of such a heinous act left the world stunned especially throughout the United States and in New York City. What happened next was a reaction few could think possible; across the country there was a jolt where sex, race, sexual orientation, or political view was not a thought. We came together as human beings with the basic principles of being respectful, helping others in need and not considering each other different but simply Americans.  David Heinz’s directorial debut is a charming, heart felt, love letter to a time forgotten. The small pocket of time just after 9/11 while also incorporating the spirit of the 1960s peace & love movement all to the soulful soundtrack of folk music.

Not only directed by a first timer the film American Folk also stars Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth both making their acting debuts. Both Joe and Amber who play Elliot and Joni are also exquisite musicians who also performed songs for the film’s soundtrack. The film centers around Elliot and Joni who meet on a flight from LA to NY; the Twin Towers are struck during their flight which redirects them to LA. Both have important reasons to be in New York, Joni to aid her sick mother and Elliot to start a new gig with a band. The only option is to go cross country in a beat up 1960s minivan given by Joni’s relative. Joni’s relative was a traveling musician and has all the people she’s ever met sign a part of the minivan. When the vehicle starts up it takes a few tries but to me when it starts up it is reigniting a spirit that once was.

The chemistry between both Elliot and Jani has a sweet innocence to it. Their relationship builds slowly with Elliot trying to keep a cold stone exterior as Joni breaks down his emotional wall. It is their common love for folk music though that brings them together, each giving strength to the other and embracing those they meet along the way. Through their journeys they continue to meet people that just want to help, there is no discrimination or thought of being selfish. The smallest moment in a scene can make you feel such a burst of humaneness and the music throughout just heightens that feeling. There is a feeling behind folk music just like all genres that have the ability to reach us deep inside. As one person in their travels says with such a passion “the power of music”. I completely believe that music is a wonder that has such a raw power that nobody can ignore.

I am completely in awe as to the performances of both Joe and Amber as it seemed so natural and also to the abilities of David Heinz. They all captured a moment and much like the film Easy Rider directed by Dennis Hopper show the change of not only a people but the world they inhabit. From the wide open scenery and aids of kindness from strangers transitioning to the small, tight shots and the hatred/hostility that creeps its way back in. As much as we like the idea of being one, a community with no struggle or hostility from non-relevant issues, similar to the US flags everyone had post 9/11 though: it was all brand new at first but after time it gets battered, beat and the end result is a half recognizable symbol that once we held so dear but for whatever reason we did not feel the need to keep it that way.


4 out of 5

Theatrical Release & On Demand Friday January 26th

Please visit the following websites to follow the film & its extremely talented artists:

Film’s Site:

iTunes Movie Download:

American Folk Soundtrack on iTunes:

Joe Purdy’s Personal Website:

Amber Rubarth’s Personal Website:

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