American Barbarian is an indie feature that makes a powerful political statement

American Barbarian is a political satire that tells the story of a young woman named Dorothy, dealing with the societal paradigm shift following the 2016 election of President Trump.

Dorothy finds herself so traumatized by the circumstances that she begins “seeing” the President in her everyday life. The President, whose name she cannot bring herself to say, is portrayed as a stalker in a cheap plastic Halloween mask.

Throughout much of the movie, the viewer is not sure if these are hallucinations or if she is actually being followed.

Dorothy refers to him as “Chump” to avoid saying his name. Most of the movie is Dorothy navigating both her sanity and her fears of what it means to have Chump in office.

Dorothy’s journey is meant to parallel aspects of American society in the days, weeks, months, and years following the 2016 election — in particular, how the election relates to women, as interpreted by filmmaker Paul Carr.

Chump now impacts her on a regular basis — invading her dreams, watching her intimate relations, and chasing her through the streets, and even exposing himself. She repeatedly has to explain her experiences and justify her sanity with friends and family.

“He is a threat, not just to women, but all of humanity,” says her therapist at one point. And this seems to be the primary message of the movie. Dorothy is so overwhelmed by the shift in the country’s values and ideals, that she is now fearful of her day-to-day life as an American woman. American Barbarian is Dorothy coming to terms with this new version of America and learning to cope with the changed world around her.

One of the most poignant moments in American Barbarian comes when Dorothy is speaking to her mother about her father’s political views. She and her mother go back and forth, demonstrating to one another how difficult it is for people to change their perspective, or see someone else’s perspective objectively for that matter.

Writer and director, Paul Carr, finished the movie originally back in 2018, but it has just recently been distributed.

Having gone through the 2020 election, and now entering a new election cycle, it’s interesting to watch American Barbarian with the benefit of hindsight.

It will be compelling to see how American Barbarian presents itself after the November election in 2024. Depending the election outcome, maybe Carr will give us a sequel.

by Ed Blackadder

Ed’s Grade: B+