America's Heart and Soul

Tired of Michael Moore's crybaby "Fahrenheit 9/11"?

Tired of Michael Moore's crybaby "Fahrenheit 9/11"? Longing for some good old American hooray? Then Walt Disney Pictures, who refused to distribute Moore's film, coincidentally brings you "America's Heart and Soul," several vignettes about Americans who live freedom by doing extraordinary things from mountain climbing to making ice cream. The theme seems to be that our great country provides us with the opportunity to do what we want if we have the passion to do it.

The photography is glorious: Cowboy Roudy roams the range amid mountains only lucky people like my daughter Gabrielle can see daily (She recently moved to Wyoming with her family). Director Louis Schwartzberg (founder of stock footage firm "Energy" and additional cinematographer for "Koyaanisqatsi") has an eye for the sweeping aerial shot as well as the intimate close-up. The characters are eccentric but often daring and graceful: Mountain-dangling dancers defy gravity to gavotte with it; a Coloradoan bowls incendiary balls into old TV sets in front of admiring, obviously otherwise bored fellow sufferers of the dreaded winter. A Vermont farmer tells you how to avoid the Monday blues: Work seven days a week!

The freedom theme is aided by the subjects' passion to do what they choose: A gospel singer rears her six siblings after her mother's death, and those adults now call her Mom (Just listen to them sing in the choir, and you might rethink your agnosticism). Her rewards are more than six fold.

If you approach "America's Heart and Soul" as a love song to the best that America can be, you should be able to balance it with Moore's diatribe against the neocons. In either case, there is no balance: Schwartzberg neglects the poverty or, say, lack of health insurance many of the participants experience; Moore refuses to acknowledge any of President Bush's accomplishments. Both visions are free to be expressed, and we are free to debate about them. But Oscar Wilde warns, "To be entirely free and at the same time entirely dominated by law, is the eternal paradox of human life that we realize at every moment."

The distribution of both films is a tribute to the freedom they wish to protect and the difficulty of achieving it in any lifetime.