Today is the day that – for anyone with a brain cell, any shred of moral sense or just generally left of Attila the Hun – is the day we hope beyond hope that the USA will throw off its clinging orange monocell pseudo-leader and get the place back to being where good ideas and great music comes out of.
Today is the day when we can’t help but think back to the last election day, four years ago, when everything went horribly, terribly wrong and we were left standing there with a sinking sense of dread thinking, what the fuck?
What the fuck?
Which is why today, as the US is in our thoughts as at no other time, and as we wait to see what the actual, real, final outcome is of the most hard-fought election of the last three millions years is, is the absolutely best day to watch the Meisterwerk that is A Conversation with America.
I once knew the man called Jim Kroft – the man who has made A Conversation with America for us – as the singer of the Berlin band that, above all other Berlin bands, were without any shadow of a doubt in anyone’s minds the band that were going to make it – that were going to shoot into the stratosphere and never come back down. The Myriad Creatures sparked, flamed, and, like so many great new bands before them, fell burning to earth.
So it was with a surprise that some years later I encountered Jim Kroft again, still hanging around the German capital, and now a seriously good, in-demand photographer as well as a startlingly on-the-ball documentary maker (who still makes music – musicians never really die, they just beef up their side hustle and keep going).
Jim Kroft set off to the US on a shoestring budget and a vaguely defined idea of what he was going to film, a little over four years ago.
A Conversation with America is just that: less a European documentary maker putting his own imprint on the thing, he wanders around the place in the days leading up to that fateful 2016 election and chats with random people.
And has some truly eye-opening conversations, and gets some sobering answers.
The documentary ends – pretty much – with us watching Jim waiting on the evening of the election where everyone’s hanging around partying, waiting to see Hilary Clinton confirmed as US president-elect.
And it covers the shocked, horrified moments when it all goes seriously, big-time tits-up and the unthinkable occurs. We watch in real time as he staggers from one intended-celebration-full-of-distraught-people to the next, all in the dregs of the night.
At this time: at this exact time. Today. Tomorrow. The day after: this is the time, unlike any other, when you should sit down for an hour and a half and watch A Conversation with America. Because it shows us the root of the thing that brought us here. The Armageddon moment when the nuclear blast occurred, a nuclear blast that expanded its mushroom cloud ever so slowly, so that it spread out and hurled its burning hot wind over a four-year pulse.
And it’s exactly that moment, so well portrayed and well caught in A Conversation with America, that brought us to this very day.
So in the feverishness of the next days, take a breather, and watch Jim Kroft’s open-hearted and open-minded attempt to get to the open, raw soul of a country that seems to have ripped its wounds open and invited its brother and it sister to prod a stick around inside to see where it hurts….but also to see where the tender, exposed wound of love is. Where the thing is that makes the whole thing worth saving.
Watching such a well-made and honestly, openly enquiring documentary film would be a huge pleasure anyway; knowing that this seriously impressive piece of film-making was done by a guy that used to play Thursday nights at Tacheles makes it even more so.
This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)