In an election year when race and gender may create as much polarization as which political party you hail from, Ashman's film serves up a highly patriotic but also compassionate and all-embracing tone. There's a lot of flag waving and patriotic swells of music to be found in Proud American but there's also a sincere appreciation for the diversity that makes up our country. In a series of stories inspired by true events, the film pays tribute to the hard work of immigrants and minorities, and champions racial and religious tolerance.
Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff offers comic commentary on being an immigrant in the U.S. in Proud American (Lightsource)
I had a chance to interview Ashman (who's on tour promoting his film) and here's what he had to say about a project that has been his passion for more than a decade.
BETH ACCOMANDO: Why did you want to make
FRED ASHMAN: To remind people that the American people are great and that our country is a great place, in spite of its faults. The USA is a beacon of freedom and opportunity around the world. There is a barrage of negativity about what's wrong; it's about time somebody made a movie about what really makes it a great country.
BA: Where did you find the stories?
FA: From the Readers Digest archives and personal research.
BA: What was the audience you had in mind?
FA: Families and people of all ages. And while it won't attract a large portion of the teen set or young adult, it has been very well received by teens in our test audiences.
Ken Howard plays a doctor in one of the multiple stories told in Proud American (Lightsource)
BA: What impact do you hope the film will have?
FA: I would like people to be inspired by the stories, and realize that a person can achieve much if they really try. The opportunities are tremendous in the USA. I'd like people to reflect on all that we as Americans take for granted, which is just about everything! And finally I want to touch an emotional chord and get people to understand there is far more that binds Americans of different colors and religions than separates us. As we focus on commonalities instead of differences we foster understanding and renewed appreciation of what it means to be American.
BA: Did you want the film to come out before the election and were you hoping that people would think about these issues as they prepare to vote?
FA: I would like people to realize that we are not "enemies" in an election. The film is not left or right, it is really not about politics, but it is political in the sense that it is intended to remind people that in the end, we are all on the same side!