A film we've written about quite a bit… previously titled Make A Movie Like Spike, and eventually changed to the current The American Dream, the intense, gripping drama is directed by and stars Jamil Walker Smith as Luis, an aspiring filmmaker who joins the marine corp with his best friend Ronald (Malcolm Goodwin), after getting rejected from USC's School of Cinematic Arts.

The American Dream is being released on DVD, VOD and digital download today, July 3, 2012You can pick up a copy at a Wal-Mart near you OR online at: iTunes, or

But I'll shut up now and let the filmmaker (Jamil Walker Smith) tell his own story; first, the story of The American Dream, and second, a video Jamil recorded for S&A readers, which follows underneath.

The Story of THE AMER­I­CAN DREAM by Jamil Walker Smith


I met a young man named Lloyd and we became friends. One day I found out that he was a Marine. This made me angry, not at what I per­ceived to be his igno­rance but rather because he was so con­scious. He, like me knew that the war was unjust. My anger was rooted in my inabil­ity to under­stand his story because it was not my own. How­ever, in ask­ing more ques­tions I began to see par­al­lels between our cir­cum­stances. I was frus­trated with films’ lack of speci­ficity to the black expe­ri­ence. Because of this void I wanted to make a film that tran­scends race. How­ever, I felt over­whelmed by my inabil­ity to have the means to make a film. Lloyd felt help­less liv­ing with his grand­mother while going to col­lege and sup­port­ing his fam­ily. Des­per­ate to make our dreams the truth, we were both will­ing to go to great lengths to become the heroes we had spent our lives search­ing for. From our time together I cre­ated char­ac­ters whose life reflected our own. Their names are Luis and Ronald and their story is THE AMER­I­CAN DREAM.

Armed with dreams that extend beyond their block, Luis and Ronald, two best friends from Los Ange­les, make a movie doc­u­ment­ing their last 36 hours before ship­ping off to Afghanistan. Luis wants to be a film­maker and Ronald wants to travel the world and raise a family.

With no money for film acad­emy, and grades too low to win a schol­ar­ship at a Uni­ver­sity with a film depart­ment, Luis decides to enlist in the Marine Corps.

The Recruiter promises Luis that if he enlists, the Gov­ern­ment will pay for his film school tuition when he returns home. In doing research, I actu­ally went into an Army Recruit­ment Cen­ter as if I were Luis. I told the Recruiter my story (Luis’s story), and as I was walk­ing out, pro­mo­tional mate­ri­als in hand, the Recruiter stopped me and said, “Come by any­time and make this place your home, Luis Walker I look for­ward to say­ing I recruited the next Spike Lee.”

This con­ver­sa­tion rep­re­sents one of the cen­tral themes explored in the film: what does it mean to be an artist in this coun­try if a young man from the work­ing class believes he must put him­self in a posi­tion of the ulti­mate self-sacrifice in order to pur­sue his cho­sen career?

In their dark­est hour, they turn on the video cam­era for the last time and doc­u­ment the final moments of their jour­ney home. They soon real­ize that their dreams and promises of a new life mean noth­ing in a place called War.


As artists we feel a tremen­dous sense of respon­si­bil­ity to tell sto­ries that reflect the times. Our glob­al­ized soci­ety is obses­sively voyeuris­tic: from real­ity TV to Face­book. Peo­ple are doc­u­ment­ing their lives and shar­ing their expe­ri­ences with the world, thus blur­ring the line between real and fake; between sacred and com­mon­place. Our peers are no longer fooled by spe­cial effects and fan­tas­ti­cal worlds that don’t exist. Peo­ple want to escape into worlds that are real, into lives that reflect their own. For this very rea­son, this is an excit­ing time to be an inde­pen­dent filmmaker.

Draw­ing from the Dogma 95 Move­ment and the global street art move­ment, we are cre­at­ing a new film move­ment here in the United States where the lack of resources serve the story as opposed to hin­der­ing it, blur­ring the line between real­ity and fic­tion. How­ever, our inten­tion is not to trick the audi­ence into believ­ing that what they’re watch­ing is real, but rather what they’re watch­ing is true to life.

Con­cep­tu­ally, we were inter­ested in explor­ing what the effects of cap­tur­ing one’s life through a lens has on its sub­jects and cir­cum­stances. Do we record so that we can for­get? In doc­u­ment­ing a moment through a lens, does it remove us from that moment, thus pro­tect­ing us from real­ity? In this celebrity dri­ven global cul­ture, do peo­ple feel less sig­nif­i­cant? Does this real­iza­tion com­pel them to say, “I was here and this is what I saw?” Do peo­ple record their own tragedy? Or do they only try to cap­ture joy? When do peo­ple for­get cam­eras are record­ing? Ques­tions such as these pro­vided a frame­work for our approach to the real­ity of what we filmed.

In speak­ing with men and women in the mil­i­tary, we soon real­ized that we weren’t mak­ing a film about war. We were mak­ing a film that ques­tions a “sys­tem” that leaves young peo­ple with no bet­ter alter­na­tive than going to war. A “sys­tem” which then appeals to young peo­ples’ self‐interests, and, in turn, puts them in a posi­tion of self‐sacrifice.

Imag­ine a war film where you never see a bat­tle scene. A film where before you see the soldier’s gun, you see the block he grew up on. Before you see him hold­ing his dead buddy, you see him being held by his mother. These images give war a face; a face if you look at it long enough, you might have the thought “I know him”. With that three‐word admis­sion, the stage is set to watch your boy take the great­est and old­est jour­ney, that of the hero who leaves home, enters the world of the unknown, con­quers demons, and if fate would have it, returns home a man.

THE AMER­I­CAN DREAM, is the full-length fea­ture film that Luis would have sub­mit­ted to film schools and shared with you and his com­mu­nity, upon return­ing from Afghanistan. In hon­or­ing the real­ity of his world, we made the entire film using equip­ment and means of pro­duc­tion that Luis would have had access to: a pro­sumer cam­era, actual loca­tions, Home Depot lights, and friends and fam­ily in place of pro­fes­sional actors.

In an age where busi­ness­men make movies and low-budget indie films that have $10 mil­lion bud­gets, THE AMER­I­CAN DREAM is the study of one young man’s pas­sion to tell his story in the face of the machine.

Our mis­sion was to pro­duce a film that appeared to be made by our tar­get audi­ence– those whose real­iza­tion of the Amer­i­can Dream is war, whether their bat­tles are fought in the streets of Los Ange­les or the streets of Kabul.

Elec­tion sea­son is fast approach­ing and cor­po­ra­tions are prepar­ing to parade through the coun­try dressed like Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans. What if, a story made by the peo­ple for the peo­ple, arouses the true major­ity to speak a truth that is the essence of every great move­ment — “They can’t kill us!”


And here's the video Jamil recorded for us and you:

And here's the film's trailer, for a glimpse at what to expect, if you haven't seen it already: