'Little America:' The TV series that questions the American dream
From the Song family and their hat store in Detroit to Jibril, a Somali cook in Minneapolis, there are eight sub-40-minute episodes, which are inspired by true stories.
Published: 11th December 2022 01:51 PM | Last Updated: 11th December 2022 01:51 PM | A+A A-
LOS ANGELES: Apple TV + series "Little America" returned to screens for a second season Friday with the aim of challenging the American dream, creator Sian Heder said.
From the Song family and their hat store in Detroit to Jibril, a Somali cook in Minneapolis, the dream's ideal -- that you can succeed in the United States through hard work and perseverance -- is still alive.
But the emotional toll of uprooting oneself, financial difficulties, family pressure to succeed and sometimes the disappointment of failing to connect to New York City appear throughout the eight sub-40-minute episodes, which are inspired by true stories.
They include Zahir, an Afghan pianist who comes to the Big Apple to escape the Taliban and ends up enrolling in the conservatory of music but is far from his mother back home.
"One of the themes we were really interested in exploring this year was, what happens when the American Dream doesn't work out the way that you expect it to," said Heder.
For Heder -- the director of 2021 movie "CODA," which won three Oscars this year including best picture -- the "whole idea of America of like, pull him up by your bootstraps, and capitalism, and it's up to you to make it work out, you know, is a huge strain."
"It's an incredible amount of pressure on an individual.
"This is the land of opportunity, but in a way. There's not a lot of safety nets in this country to catch you if you don't succeed," she added.
The first season was released in early 2020, when ex-president Donald Trump still occupied the White House.
"There was almost a reactivity to all the negativity where we felt that we needed to be very optimistic and positive about this country and take it back, in a way."
"I think this season there's probably more freedom to explore the nuances and complications of whatever the American dream means," said the 45-year-old Heder.
The series is adapted from Epic Magazine's portraits of immigrants.
Some of the episodes are humorous and light-hearted, such as the one where a Sri Lankan immigrant in Texas participates in a car-kissing contest. The contestant who keeps his or her lips pressed to the car the longest wins the car.
"What we are looking for in our subjects are very average people in a way," said Heder.
The cultural mosaic of America is reflected in the actors' dialogue, which often occurs in their original language, and in the dishes they eat around the dinner table.
Each episode ends with an epilogue where we discover the real character who inspired the story.
"I think through our commitment to try to honor their real experience, you actually get a much more true portrait of what it's like to be here," said Heder, who was born in Massachusetts.