Letters from Coy Middlebrook, Director & Linda Serafin, Executive Producer
February 2014 – For Spacious Sky – A road trip film.
Either all of us are in the car on this road trip through democracy or none of us are in the car. We sing “crown thy good with brotherhood” in our beloved national hymn “America The Beautiful” but then find every occasion to marginalize one another.
We filmmakers gathered to make FOR SPACIOUS SKY in the hope that it may provide a kinder alternative to the often numbing discourse we must swallow in the media about how divided we are in America. FOR SPACIOUS SKY is a film about a broken America, seen through a broken brotherhood, and the chance for its repair. I hope the film may be an example that many of us in this country may have opposing fundamental ideas of how to govern and take care of each other and that we may be very different in head… but that we may, also be, more similar in heart.
I shared a very powerful day with both of my grown brothers on Super Tuesday in the spring of 2008 when Hilary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama were at the final lap in the longest and most expensive Democratic primary election race in American history. Our brotherhood, once strong in childhood, had suffered a falling away as we grew, then a shattering, and on this day there came a chance to begin to pick up the pieces. I witnessed the transformative power that comes when one exercises their right to vote when my brother, Ingo, after years of incarceration and then years on probation, voted for the very first time. Both my brothers suffer from drug addiction. On this day, Ingo had been in recovery from the ruin of the addiction for a couple of years and we were driving our younger brother Sean to the same rehab where Ingo had experienced his first glimpse of survival. What first started out as an errand, lifesaving for our younger brother aside, became a road back to our brotherhood.
Personally for me, making the film, it was a gift to return to the memories of the day I shared with my brothers where we put our differences aside and looked instead at the road ahead, together. The story of the film is inspired from that day, now taking place on America’s general election day for president, November 4th, 2008. A day where Americans, in record breaking numbers, more so on that day than any day before, and frustratingly since, set ourselves on a course of togetherness.
As a storyteller I am most interested in finding the reasons to come together and breaking the illusion of separateness. To communicate those essential things that we share as human beings in a way that brings light to the struggle. I am continually thankful to my family whose story I share and to my creative family for helping me share it. The aim for the film is to speak to a greater family, the human family. We all, when given the chance, can bridge the divide we often feel and reach back to one another to right a wrong – to share the lift that all of humanity gains from making amends and coming together.
COY MIDDLEBROOK – DIRECTOR
A short essay by Executive Producer Linda Serafin
“On the evening of the 2004 Democratic National Convention…”
This essay was submitted to the Obama Campaign in a competition for tickets to the 2009 Inauguration Ceremony:
On the evening of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, as I watched Barack Obama’s soon-to-be-legendary keynote speech, I telephoned my son, Jesse.
“What are you doing?” I yelled in excitement.
“I’m driving home,” he shouted, over the roar of wind and the pounding of U2.
He always drove with the top down and music blaring, no matter the weather.
“Isn’t it a great night?”
It certainly was that– crisp and clear in the foothills of northern California– dark just fallen and the moon already rising.
“Look, get to a TV fast,” I told him. “I’m watching the first black President of
the United States.” I held the phone out to the television and punched up the volume.
Later, we lost sight of his color, his personal qualities so much more significant; but
at the beginning it was through that lens that we could sense the possibilities.
Over time we developed a feeling of connection, tentacles extended surreptitiously across America, like we were in an unspoken-of club in which members had each tucked their awareness of this guy into a corner of their minds– a secret weapon for a maybe-someday. But it didn’t seem likely to be someday-soon.
I learned my love of politics from my Canadian grandparents, and my adoration of America from my mother. She was the youngest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, where they worked long days, embraced dreams, considered ideas seriously, craved baseball, and wept for Roosevelt.
I was born in San Francisco, first in the lineage to go to college. After JFK I somehow remained optimistic about the remarkable dignity and decency of America throughout Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.
Jesse was born in 1971. As he grew up I harbored a glimmer of a thought that he might go into politics; he became a criminal defense attorney who possessed charisma, a strong sense of justice, and the ability to talk and think at the same time– which I thought would come in handy, especially in a campaign. And he wanted, he said, to do something, “… where my opinion matters”.
But when it came to politicians he was, like so many of his generation, unenchanted. He argued that politics was a sinkhole.
Not in a million years.
Then, in the months after the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush, I began to seriously despair for the future of my country. After the 2000 decision we had bumper stickers: It Takes a Village Idiot, or, No Billionaire Left Behind. But by 2005 the Bush team hadn’t been funny in a long, long time. Morosely I read all the books. Iraq, Katrina, and
the torture memos were only the tip of the iceberg. Silently I began to root for disaster,
for the Bush cabal to achieve a perfect record. I began to believe that America was an idea in decline, that we had the government we deserved.
Jesse said, “Can’t Obama run for President?” I said no, no, of course not, too young, too new…. Way too far, that leap of faith.
My son and I had achieved a turn-around– he was the political optimist, insisting confidently that Barack Obama would run, would win, that people would love the guy, that it would be a landslide, that he would be the leader for our times… That everything would be okay.
Jesse died 2 years ago, in his sleep, the result of an undiagnosed heart defect. I missed him a lot during this amazing election. His young son will turn four on January 21, 2009.
Chase is a clear echo of his father: he watches carefully to figure out how things are, while imagining wildly how things might be. He and I will watch this inauguration together, on the TV. It will be a great day. And you never know, maybe he’ll turn out to be my politician.
In any case, a renewed awareness of the collective responsibility of all Americans is in the air, stirred up in the wake of Barack Obama’s stride. We will be dignified, and decent, and fair; we will make good laws, and follow them, and work hard yet stay healthy; we will be respectful of nature, and take care of each other, and serve our country in the best way we can manage; and we’ll eat our vegetables. We’ll really try.
What more wonderful gift could America give to its grandchildren?
Linda Serafin, January 12, 2009