This Ain't No Heartland

  • 2004
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

It's difficult to decide who comes off worse in this low-budget documentary: the conservative, self-righteous Midwesterners it captures at their most ignorantly dogmatic or the equally self-righteous director interrogating them from off-camera. In the summer of 2003, Austrian filmmaker Andreas Horvath traveled to America's "heartland," ostensibly to investigate...read more

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Reviewed by Ethan Alter
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It's difficult to decide who comes off worse in this low-budget documentary: the conservative, self-righteous Midwesterners it captures at their most ignorantly dogmatic or the equally self-righteous director interrogating them from off-camera. In the summer of 2003, Austrian filmmaker Andreas Horvath traveled to America's "heartland," ostensibly to investigate the locals' opinion of the ongoing conflict in Iraq. But to judge by the finished film, it appears that Horvath was actually interested in finding the least informed subjects possible and putting them up onscreen to be laughed at. Taking his cue from Michael Moore, the director travels to such states as Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas, where he seeks out ordinary people and quizzes them about terrorism, Iraq and George W. Bush. The sheer ignorance some of the interviewees display is as astonishing as it is frightening. One elderly woman claims that France and Germany are conspiring to keep Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction hidden from American soldiers. Another man insists that Hussein was almost certainly behind the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A Republican Party volunteer describes how Islam "was established by the sword." In between interviews, Horvath plays portions of a local preacher's incendiary radio broadcasts and includes scenes of demolition derbies and overweight Americans stuffing themselves on pastries. In short, the movie paints a portrait of middle America that is straight out of Lars von Trier's DOGVILLE (2003). To be fair, Horvath can't be accused of putting words in anyone's mouth; he lets each of his subjects damn themselves. But as an interviewer, he's no Errol Morris. His questions are poorly phrased and he often interrupts the speaker to argue over a point or give his own opinion. Horvath doesn't really care about any of his subjects as people-he's only interested in exposing their lack of knowledge on camera. By the time he starts badgering a bunch of drunken guys in a bar, it's clear that he's just out to score easy points. With its washed-out visuals and a muddy sound mix, the movie is also ugly to look at. As a documentary short, this might have been a sobering look at the way ignorance and fear still pervades large sections of America. But at 105 minutes, the film stops being enlightening early on and instead turns almost cruel.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: It's difficult to decide who comes off worse in this low-budget documentary: the conservative, self-righteous Midwesterners it captures at their most ignorantly dogmatic or the equally self-righteous director interrogating them from off-camera. In the summ… (more)

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