American Totem seeks to shift the current debate by exploring the topic of guns in America from a more nuanced approach than the “more guns versus less guns” divide. The film recognizes that Americans have complex, and often contradictory, relationships with firearms. To focus solely on the object distracts us from addressing the deeper issues facing this country, including an uncertain economic future, the loss of community, increased rates of poverty, and shifting identities.
In this time of political, social, and economic transformation, the film explores the national narrative that Americans have a “special” relationship with firearms, exposing how that story was constructed. American Totem highlights gun-oriented organizations and their search for community. It also covers the costs to communities of easy access to firearms.
The film does not take a position on gun regulation, but it presents neglected viewpoints and personal narratives to redirect the conversation. It is time for a new way to think about guns and gun violence.
How the film was made
The creation of American Totem was a meandering journey, talking to people across the nation. With a naive quest to find the answers to the gun debate, and a few credit cards, the team traveled across the country to Dallas, Austin, Baltimore, Washington D.C., New York City, San Jose, and Los Angeles. What became clear is that for many Americans, firearms are more than just tools. They are symbolic of identity, community and belonging. There is an emotional connection transcending time and space that represents family and tribe.
On this journey to understand Americans’ relationship to firearms, we also interviewed gun rights and gun control activists; experts on suicide, domestic violence, American history, and folklore; philosophers and political activists.
Where We Are Now
The film is nearing the end of the post production phase. The bulk of the storytelling has been compiled but we are looking for producers at all levels to help with finishing funds. We hope to elevate the production value so the project can be received by a wider and more diverse audience. We believe this film has the potential to shift the debate, but we need your support to get there.