ENTERTAINMENT

Sundance filmmaker imagines society beyond the ‘American dream’

Feb 8, 2021, 3:10 PM | Updated: 5:27 pm
American Dream...
A view overlooking Park City is seen on the sixth day of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)
(Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — Is there anything beyond the “American Dream”? To filmmaker Jake Yuza, there must be. 

In his feature-length Sundance film, “After America,” Yuza depicts fictional characters each dealing with different struggles caused by the pressures of living in the U.S. The film merges documentary-style techniques with fictitious stories based on real-life experiences. 

“We see these characters escape the American Dream and get out from under those pressures that they are all struggling against,” Yuza said. “The ideals and ideas of what we’re supposed to be and that are kind of impossible to create.” 

Characters deal with the pressures of the American Dream

One character, who works as a criminal de-escalation worker, succumbs to the everyday pressures of her job and decides to abandon her life. As a result, her decision unravels other character’s lives such as a queer, deaf man who explores life as an underground model but dies later in the film.

The film takes place in Minneapolis, months before the death of George Floyd — a Black man who died under the knee of a police officer and ignited a summer of national protests. Although the film was finished before Floyd’s death, Yuza said certain aspects foreshadowed the moment because it wasn’t an isolated incident. 

Rather, it was something that’s been “bubbling up” in society for years. 

“[The film] is a time capsule of some of these things that I think have been bubbling up, and [those] pressures and asking the question of can you be free of America?” Yuza said. “Can you escape America? Is it even possible?” 

What does it mean to go beyond this ideal? 

The film directly questions the ideas that virtually define America: Freedom and liberty. What does it mean to be truly free as an individual — free from your own struggles and pain, Yuza asks. 

But beyond that, Yuza said he wants his film to challenge viewers to think beyond the idea of the “American Dream” that has remained somewhat unchanged since the conception of the nation. 

“We’re 21 years into this new millennium, but it still feels like we’re still living in the 20th century in some ways,” Yuza said. “I find that, at least in America, there’s this schism that we know things need to change but we’re holding onto the past.”

Instead, the filmmaker seeks to look at what comes after achieving this ideal. 

Although the film doesn’t wholly focus on issues such as race or criminal justice, Yuza said he wanted to create a snapshot that shows these issues influence other areas of society — creating a bubble under the surface ready to burst. 

To Yuza, Floyd’s death in 2020 was the eruption.

“In the last month, the title [of ‘After America’] took on all kinds of meanings that I did not expect,” Yuza said, referencing the siege of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. “I was like, oh actually, we might have a totally different thing. America might be over. That came faster than I expected.” 

Moving forward, Yuza said he hopes his film can act as a catalyst for change, reminding viewers they don’t need to maintain the status quo. 

“When you’re faced with two choices, you can always take the third,” he said. “If it feels you have one of two choices, there’s always another possibility and a potential to change things for the better in ways that you may not expect.” 

Today’s Top Stories

Entertainment

Vehicles enter Zion National Park   on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. With Independence Day set for Mond...
Mark Jones

Busy weekend expected at Zion National Park

With it being Independence Day on Monday, Zion National Park officials are expecting a busy weekend at the park and say visitors should expect long lines.
23 hours ago
The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7. Courte...
Devin Oldroyd

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival is coming back to Salt Lake City

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7.
23 hours ago
Utah's Hogle Zoo welcomes a new red panda, Priya, to its Asian Highlands exhibit. Photo credit: Uta...
Devin Oldroyd

Hogle Zoo welcomes new Red Panda in effort to conserve the species

Utah's Hogle Zoo welcomes a new red panda, Priya, to its Asian Highlands exhibit. It hopes to breed her with Mow Mow, a red panda currently living there.
23 hours ago
The Path of Art explores artists lives....
Ryan Meeks

New podcast aims to bring awareness about Utah’s artists, creatives

KSL Podcasts is launching a new podcast, The Path of Art, to share the stories of artists, comedians, performers, and more. Listen to the first episode here.
2 days ago
Freshly pressed vinyl records are produced in a stamper at the United Record Pressing facility Thur...
DAVID SHARP Associated Press

Manufacturers struggle to keep pace with vinyl record demand

The Recording Industry Association of America says record album sales grew 61% last year — and reached $1 billion for the first time since the 1980s.
4 days ago
Art City Donut Truck's Conner Jensen, left, serves customers sugary desserts during the Food Truck ...
Devin Oldroyd

Eighth annual Food Truck Face Off to be held at Liberty Park on July 16

Utah's largest food truck rally for charity, Food Truck Face Off, is coming back to Liberty Park this July.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Sundance filmmaker imagines society beyond the ‘American dream’