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The UnAmerican Struggle: 2016’s Shot Heard Round The World

by Rick Paulas, Special To Malibu Arts Journal

Like a huge chunk of America, director Ric Osuna was shook to his core on the night of November 8th, 2016.  

In the previous months, he’d witnessed the rise of a presidential candidate whose race-baiting and hateful scapegoating gave license to emboldened white supremacists, and on that night, he saw that candidate win the most powerful office in the country. While most of us were still walking around blurry-eyed and confused like the day after a particularly long night out, Osuna was getting to work.

The final result, The UnAmerican Struggle, is an analysis and documentation of the hardships that immigrants, Latinos, Muslims, women, black and transgender people are experiencing under the Trump presidency. We spoke to Osuna about its creation, and what he hopes to come from it.

Q&A with director Ric Osuna on The UnAmerican Struggle 


MAJ: Why did you make this documentary?

Ric Osuna: I am Mexican-American, and I am very proud of my heritage. I am proud of the unwavering loyalty and contribution Latinos have provided America. My dad proudly served his country in Vietnam. Despite the scars it left, he raised his children to be very patriotic. I am glad he was not around to see Donald Trump’s attack on Mexicans—his opening salvo in a presidential campaign that scarred our nation.

MAJ: Your film details America’s long history of xenophobic actions like slavery, the KKK, Japanese internment during WWII, Muslim hate actions after 9/11, and the prison population explosion under Clinton. Yet you begin the film by saying in 2016 you thought the country had turned a corner in equality and civil rights. Do you still think that?

Osuna: I think [this hate] was simmering and Trump tapped into existing fears. He scapegoated people who were different. Sadly, like most people, I truly believed we had turned a corner and that the election of President Obama signified an end to America’s dark past. Trump’s actions as a candidate, and now policies as President, have reversed decades of progress in this country. That is why it is so important that every American who values diversity, tolerance and inclusion now get involved, from making their communities a welcoming place to speaking out against agendas of hate and intolerance. We are now living through a second Civil Rights movement.

MAJ: If so many Americans were able to overlook Trump’s xenophobia and sexism to vote for him, how do you think we get back on the right track?

Americans must get involved, starting at the local level. Fostering communities that promote tolerance and inclusion should be priority one. We need to change the way we refer to people, and change the way we view diversity. We have a long road ahead of us, and a lot of work to undo the damage that Trump has caused by his words and actions. It is time we unequivocally support the ideal that all people are equal regardless of race, gender identity, or religion. Despite our differences, bigotry and injustice will not spread when Americans clearly unite their voices and stand together. Bigotry is an un-American concept that directly poisons the values championed throughout our nation’s history. It is for all Americans to fully come into the struggle to combat it.


MAJ: Who should watch this?

Osuna: I’d say the audience is just about anyone that has an interest in diversity, especially those in hearing a perspective that might challenge their belief system. I hope the film inspires people to help with the struggle ahead to ensure all people are treated equally and diversity remains a valued tenet in America. Politics aside, I also hope those people who voted for Trump can take an honest look at their candidate to better understand the struggle diverse people now face – a direct result of them giving Trump a mandate. Bigotry is, once again, flourishing. We need everyone to come into the struggle to preserve American values of civil rights, inclusion and tolerance.


On The Web:

UnAmerican Struggle on Cinema Libre Studio

1366 Films

Writer at Topanga Journal | | | + posts

Rick Paulas has written many things, some serious, plenty not, for plenty of places, like: The Awl, VICE, Pacific Standard, KCET, SB Nation Longform, The Morning News, McSweeney's, Wired, The New York Times and a whole slew of others. More than once, he wrangled a publication to basically pay him to eat a bunch of hot dogs at Dodger Stadium. He lives in Berkeley.

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