American Ritual is a feature-length documentary exploring what television does for us and what it means to American culture. Through vérité footage, in-depth conversations and archival film and audio, American Ritual examines the relationship between cultural promise and lived experience, while considering the possibilities of the privately felt public imagination.
American Ritual arises from the assumption that the televised image is both representational and generative. The film will examine how television fits within American mythology and creates new readings of history. Since it’s debut, television has taught Americans who to be, how to love and what to want, simply by presenting a concrete image of life.
Watching television is a way of knowing. In this new epistemology, it doesn’t matter if something is real, only that it’s visible. American Ritual posits the television sitcom as a uniquely American product—like jazz or comic books—and uses the formal logic of the small screen to structure a polemic devoted to the medium.
In 2010, the average American watched over five hours of television a day. We are making this film because—like many Americans—we love TV. Mr. Rogers was our neighbor. Chandler, Joey, Phoebe, Monica, Rachel and Ross were our friends. We can recall the name of Little Pete’s tattoo before we can remember our grandma’s birthday and we’ve seen every episode of Seinfeld at least six times.
As critic David Marc notes, “the number of people who condemn television are exceeded only by the number of people who watch it.” Television is at the heart of American culture. It’s unavoidable. We’re not interested in whether television is good or bad, we want to find out what it does to us.
HOW YOUR FUNDING HELPS
is a completely independent project: we don’t get government funding or grants. We are paying for this film out-of-pocket because we believe it needs to exist. The film is currently in pre-production and your support will help us finish this project. All the proceeds from our Kickstarter campaign will go towards equipment, research, trips to speak with experts and collect footage, music rights, editing, sound mixing, color correction and a host of other expenses. $25,000 is the minimum amount of money we need to finish American Ritual
. If we exceed our goal, we will have more time and resources to make a better film. Help us bring American Ritual
to the public!
(Director/Photography) is a photographer and filmmaker based in Chicago, Illinois. Since graduating from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2007, Elliott has photographed magazine covers, editorials and campaigns for clients such as Air Canada, Anti Records, Dwell Magazine and the University of Chicago.
(Director/Writer) is a writer and filmmaker based in Chicago, Illinois. She recently completed “Implications and Distinctions: Format, Content, and Context in Contemporary Race Film,” a book that examines performances of blackness in mainstream cinema from 1990 – present. Syms has lectured on the relationship between mass media and identity at the Houston Museum of African American Art, California Institute of the Arts, University of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and MoMA PS1 among other venues. Her artwork has been exhibited and screened extensively, including presentations at the Gene Siskel FIlm Center, Chicago, IL; Capricious Space, Brooklyn, NY; Wassaic Project, Wassaic, NY; and White Flag Projects, St. Louis, MO. From 2007-2011, Syms ran Golden Age, a non-commercial project space dedicated to sharing ideas through exhibitions, performances and printed matter.