Hanson Hosein about the documentary Independent America
I did this interview on the 19/11/2007 (but due to the site change I forgot to put this up) well that when the answer came back from Hanson of the film makers of the important documentary Independent America and it is about mom & pop stores in America and big business. I think this is was a very good interview which I did, I gave him some good questions to answer. If you have any interest in small businesses in America, you need to see this.
1. Why did you decide to do a documentary on Mom & Pop stories and small towns fighting to remain independent?
Prior to moving to a small city in British Columbia, Canada, I had lived in Tel Aviv, New York and Paris — all vibrant cities with healthy independent retailers in their city cores. Back in my native Canada, in one of the most beautiful settings in the world, we noticed ugly “big box” development happening everywhere, even as we were developing friendships with local farmers, bakers, butchers, chefs, winemakers and artisans. It made me wonder whether this was happening everywhere, particularly in the USA, the home of Wal-Mart, Starbucks and my wife Heather’s family. So when I got back from six months of reporting on “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and its aftermath with NBC in the Middle East, Heather and I hit the road to find out what was happening.
I’m always surprised by the support we receive in the most unexpected of places. I think this subject really hit a nerve, and you didn’t have to be a left-wing liberal to understand what’s at stake. First, contrary to the perception overseas, we found the Americans we met to be amazingly sophisticated and intelligent with their responses to the issue — which I believe comes through clearly in the film (one reason why I believe Australians liked the documentary so much). Second, they were unexpectedly receptive to this odd looking couple with their dog showing up in their town with a camera rolling.
It was also interesting that much of this return to “Buy Local” was a direct impact of a growing concern by many Americans that they had lost control over their big, powerful institutions in Washington (Iraq, Hurricane Katrina) and in corporate boardrooms (Enron, Martha Stewart, etc.). So why not focus on what they could control? Right at home. Increasing fuel costs, global warming, and concerns about global security heightened this awareness.
3. Did you think that it is sad that a lot of these small towns have lost their culture and identity and basically become like every other town?
It’s incredibly sad. As Angel Delgadillo from Seligman Arizona said in our film (Seligman was also the inspiration for “Radiator Springs” in the animated film “Cars), if his small town gets a McDonald’s all the tourists from around the world won’t be as interested to visit this highlight along Route 66, as it’ll look like everywhere else they’ve been.
But more importantly, as retail diversity disappears, and residents of these towns lose their independent livelihood, they become dependent on one or two major corporations to supply them, which can be dangerous to democracy if it’s a company like Wal-Mart that censors its cultural inventory, or a chain bookstore (it’s often the independent bookstores that takes risks and support new authors, like Khaled Hosseini who wrote “The Kite Runner”).
Yes. I learned that America can’t easily be classified as “Red” and “Blue.” And that it’s important that if big media won’t pay attention to what’s going on in rural America, then we should take things into our own hands, and make sure they have a voice through alternative means (blogging, online video, etc.).
I do. And why it’s so important that they continue to survive and thrive. Not everyone needs to live in a big city.
That Heather and I are still married! And that a crazy idea that we had, that no major broadcaster would fund, could ultimately reach so many people. It was hard and lonely out there sometimes, thinking we were wasting our time and the last of our savings to do this. Luckily, we had a supportive partner, our Executive Producer Tom Powers, in Toronto, who kept us going. And when we met people like philosopher-farmer Tod Murphy in Vermont, who advocates eating products that are supplied as close to home as possible in the name of community security, we were completely inspired and reinvigorated.
We had actually been hoping that people overseas would pick up on how the world’s economic superpower is having second thoughts about its love affair with big corporations. That said, we were utterly surprised at how Australians and New Zealanders were the first to really embrace the concept of Independent America. Must be something in the water over there. I still fantasize that we’ll get to do an Independent Oceana Tour 2008.
We’ve moved to Seattle, in an area that really embodies much of the values of Independent America. We’re finally starting a family. And I’m exploring some of the potential of what we achieved technologically with IA in my new position as Director of the Digital Media program at the University of Washington Department of Communications. I’m really hoping that our next film project will involve some ambitious application of mobile telephone video. No point resting on our laurels!