Telling the Story of Trump's America, One Travelogue at a Time
In a new web-series, director Andrew Morgan explores the intersectionality of a divided country.
As the world watched the 2016 presidential election results, director Andrew Morgan, sat in complete disbelief grasping the impact of what had transpired. "Are America's best days behind us? Is it possible for the nation to rebuild its true national identity?" he questioned. It was not until then that he realized how completely divided the nation had become.
Morgan, whose range of work includes films such as It Remains and Here For Now, has dedicated his entire life to "telling stories for a better tomorrow." It's why when faced with so many opposing opinions on the election, he decided to address each one through a travelogue documentary called Untold America.
"We are living in a moment of profound change, disruption, and a very real reordering of power here in this country and around the world," he says. "That kind of change fosters fear that has been mobilized into a series of very destructive storylines. These narratives are powerful enough to elect presidents, but ultimately they must be challenged or the entire premise of our democracy is at great risk."
With an episode available every week on Untold America's website, the series wrestles with overarching subjects such as democracy, immigration, environmental devastation, and healthcare.
Committed to showcasing diverse perspectives, Morgan and his team travel across America meeting and capturing conversations with those who voted for Trump and those who didn't and more, giving a voice to those "who all too often remain voiceless stats or numbers on the page."
"We often focus our attention on those in power but there is a lot to learn from actually listening and living life in the shoes of the millions of American's who feel powerless to effect their own lives," he said.
A survey by Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that just 10 percent of Americans have confidence in the country's political system. Likewise, 70 percent of people feel frustrated by last year's elections – including both democrats and republicans.
Morgan finds it particularly problematic and believes that while the political system needs to be fixed, the only way to do that is by bringing both the liberal and conservative sides together.
"I get to spend a lot of my time with people all over the country in very different walks of life who hold very different political viewpoints, and at the end of the day I think we have so much more in common than we ever stop to realize," he says. "We have lost sight of our shared humanity, our common good and instead have settled on stories that highlight our differences and leave us more and more alone."
Perhaps the most polarizing topic is immigration. Morgan delves into the controversial issue and meets several young undocumented immigrants struggling to make their way through the hateful narratives around it.
"When we use the word immigrant or illegal alien, we remove ourselves from facing the fact that these are people -- human beings, with struggles and stories," he explains on the show. "How we treat outsiders says a lot about who we are as a society and it forces us to face perhaps one of the most important questions of our time. When do those of us who were traditionally protected under the law, have not just an invitation but also an obligation to speak for those who are not?" he asks.
Another such issue is climate change. Despite the staggering amount of evidence, the Trump administration has ruled it out as a potential problem and arguably, risked endangering the planet.
"For me it was the most devastating part of Trump's election, to go from a president who identified climate change as our greatest threat to a new president denying its very existence was tragically insane to so many of us," says Morgan. "It also makes the fight for real action more important than ever and we are seeing a strong movement on the local level to make that change. The vast majority of Americans believe climate change is a critical threat to everything we hold dear and we most become relentlessly focused in our personal lives and politically to see true progress be made."
The election left many people helpless and concerned when it comes to issues such as climate, immigration, race, and women's rights, amongst others. Morgan says the only way to bring real change is to jump in and do your part however you can.
"We are alive together at an extraordinary moment in human history and I want to see more and more people grabbing a hold of that and jumping in on some level in some way that most fits who they really are. There is so much unfinished work before us and the opportunity of our lifetime is to move the story forward in a way that leaves this place better off because we were here."
All episodes of Untold America are available to watch online. The series is not for profit, and viewers can support the production costs by making a donation through the website.