Our America

Overview

Our America is the story of LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman two inner-city Chicago teenagers who eloquently distilled their lives on the Mean Streets into an award-winning Public Radio documentary (and later, a book) titled Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago. When a local NPR broadcaster conducts a search for "two young, intelligent African Americans to be on the radio," Jones (played by Roderick Pannell) and Newman (Brandon Hammond) smooth-talk their way into the offices of radio producer ...
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Overview

Our America is the story of LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman two inner-city Chicago teenagers who eloquently distilled their lives on the Mean Streets into an award-winning Public Radio documentary (and later, a book) titled Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago. When a local NPR broadcaster conducts a search for "two young, intelligent African Americans to be on the radio," Jones (played by Roderick Pannell) and Newman (Brandon Hammond) smooth-talk their way into the offices of radio producer David Isay (Josh Charles), and as a result both young men are hired as reporters. For the next week, LeAlan and Lloyd amble through the Projects, tape recorders in hand, the better to assemble a "sound portrait" of their 'hood. But with the resultant success and fame, Jones and Newman must suffer the admonitions and threats of their neighbors, who feel that the two have sold out to "Whitey" and are exploiting their own people. Things come to a startling climax when, in the course of their investigative reporting, LeAlan and Lloyd put their lives on the line to tell the whole story of a 4-year-old boy who was tossed from a 14th story window to his death by a rampaging gang. Our America made its Showtime cable network debut on July 28, 2002.
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Special Features

Closed Caption; Full screen format; Dolby Digital English Stereo
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Early on, Our America seems headed toward depicting misery in the projects at arm's length -- possibly making it guilty of the same "ghetto tourism" NPR journalist David Isay Josh Charles gets accused of during the story. There's token grit and danger, but the viewer senses the filmmakers might softball it by characterizing the two leads as saints, rather than flawed byproducts of their environment. Then, LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman participate in a game of "knockout," dropping bricks onto passing minivans from above the highway, and the true uncompromising nature of Our America shines through. Former Spike Lee cinematographer Ernest R. Dickerson brings Lee's sense of purpose to his study of two inner-city youths chronicling their daily grind in Chicago's toughest housing project, which Isay brings to a wider audience through National Public Radio. The debate about Isay's role, and the extent to which it's self-serving, is fertile. That Our America premiered on Showtime may have kept the film itself from a wider audience, but it deserves to be discovered on DVD. Dickerson gets authentic performances from Brandon Hammond and Roderick Pannell in the central roles, and frames their characters' squalid lives honestly. But he's also got tricks up his sleeve as a former director of photography, switching film stock to black-and-white when LeAlan and Lloyd are recording. Their interviews with LeAlan's mentally ill mother and Lloyd's alcoholic father are particularly heartbreaking. The fact-based Our America contains some of the same drive-bys and drug deals as fictionalized ghetto stories, and in this sense, it threatens to disappear into their anonymous number. But its timing also seems to be a reminder that although new societal ills may take the headlines, the problems of inner-city blacks are no less profound than when Boyz 'N the Hood premiered a decade earlier.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 4/13/2004
  • UPC: 097368038448
  • Original Release: 2002
  • Rating:

  • Source: Paramount
  • Region Code: 1
  • Aspect Ratio: Pre-1954 Standard (1.33.1)
  • Presentation: Pan & Scan
  • Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:35:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 77,337

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Josh Charles David Isay
Vanessa A. Williams Sandra Williams
Roderick Pannell LeAlan Jones
Brandon Hammond Lloyd Newman
Mykelti Williamson Graham Ellis
Peter Paige Gary Covino
Irma P. Hall June Jones
Serena Lee
Djanet Sears
Gene Mack
Rukiya Bernard
Justin Mitchell
Mark Taylor
Daniel Farris
Technical Credits
Ernest R. Dickerson Director, Cinematographer
Angela Bassett Executive Producer
Jaki Brown-Karman Casting
Garth Brunt Set Decoration/Design
Eda Godel Hallinan Producer
Stephen Lovejoy Editor
Bill MacMillan Sound/Sound Designer
Resa McConaghy Costumes/Costume Designer
Doug McCullough Production Designer
Laurie Mirsky Asst. Director
Helen Mossler Casting
Marion Pon Art Director
Gordon Rayfield Screenwriter
Patrice Rushen Score Composer
Joseph Stern Executive Producer
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. My Own Backyard [8:10]
2. Dragging Each Other Up [3:53]
3. Ghetto Life 101 [7:10]
4. In the Hood [7:54]
5. Fun and Games [4:02]
6. Family Portraits [9:32]
7. Just Talkin' [4:22]
8. Taking Heat [5:31]
9. Telling the Truth [5:15]
10. Investigative Reporters [6:47]
11. Too Many Problems [4:40]
12. Witness [4:12]
13. The Wrong Road [5:11]
14. A Change for the Better [4:55]
15. Real Scares [6:30]
16. Proud of Something [7:10]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play
   Scene Selection
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