We are a country in transition. America is redefining what it stands for as the world watches. And it isn’t pretty.
On January 21st we say goodbye to Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States and the first African American to hold the office. Many people alternate between anger, shock, outrage and despair. Being brown in America, being an immigrant or children of immigrants heightens the anger and deepens the pain.
At this moment, we are seeking solidarity and a comfort that feeds resilience and roots our resolve. We need to define what it means to be American - not let it be defined for us. It is in this climate that we turn to art for answers, solace and strength. It is in art that we can see ourselves reflected and have our stories told.
Enter Director Vikram Gandhi’s Barry, releasing Friday, December 16th on Netflix. The film is so perfectly timed one wonders if there was a premonition in the making of it.
Barry is the story of Obama’s life before he was Barack. The film transports us to his days at Columbia University in New York in the late 1980’s when he was a young mixed-race man having to decide who he was and what he stood for.
In our conversation with Gandhi, we learn that he was particularly drawn to this part of Obama’s life. He too went to Columbia, lived on the same block years later, and as a brown man in America, related to Obama’s quest for identity.
Gandhi’s sensitivity to the deeper issues of race gives us a thoughtful story of Obama evolving from uncertainty, tentatively feeling his way towards confidence, until he claims his name and becomes Barack. Originally intended to be a personal, intimate look at one man’s self discovery, the impact of the American election has transformed Barry into a political story about everyone uncertain of their place in America.
In the end, Barry the film and Barry the man, remind us that we define who we become by the choices we make. Whatever the politics and circumstance surrounding us, we can always, ultimately choose hope.
We sat down with Director Vikram Gandhi for an in depth chat about the film, what it means to be American today, and how to claim your name. Listen to the entire interview here.
Barry releases Friday, December 16th on Netflix.