If you think the media reports only bad news and Hollywood makes dirty movies, Walt Disney Pictures has a star-spangled film for you and yours.

It’s no coincidence that Louis Schwartzberg’s patriotic summer documentary, “America’s Heart & Soul,” opens two days before the Fourth of July.

A visual treat with the sweep and canvas of an IMAX film, the movie, all shot before Sept. 11, 2001, explodes like a chrysanthemum fireworks shell with red, white and blue stars.

Besides directing scores of TV commercials, Schwartzberg has traveled the world for more than 25 years producing and collecting spectacular images of people and nature.

In a way, this is a spin-off of the 26 half-hour series, “America,” he produced and directed for the Hallmark Channel with some of the same folks, including Dick Hoyt, who pushes his wheelchair-bound son, Rick, in the Boston Marathon.

For his first film as director, Schwartzberg wanted to honor ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things. As he sees it, this celebrates the “heart and soul” of the people who make up the mosaic of America.

There are 24 vignettes with folks notable for their talent, pluck or passion. And against spacious skies, amber waves of grain and alabaster cities, we meet them in their habitat from sea to shining sea.

There’s a cliff dancer, junk artist, blind climber, bike messenger, gospel singer, rug weaver and klezmer clarinetist, among others in the inspiring mix.

Some such as Ben Cohen, founder of Ben & Jerry’s, and The Reverend Cecil Williams of Glide Church in San Francisco are already public figures.

And others, such as explosive artist Paul Stone, who fires canon balls into the side of junked cars, and oil well firefighters Ace Barnes and James Tuppin of Livingston, Texas, don’t seem all that ordinary.

Wrangler Roudy Roudebush is a local icon in the millionaires’ playground of Telluride, Colo. Cajun musician-historian Ann Savoy can be heard on the “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” soundtrack.

Dairy farmer-filmmaker George Woodard of Vermont acted in My Mother’s Early Lovers and Ethan Frome. And three-time aerobatic champ Patty Wagstaff’s plane is in the National Air and Space Museum near Amelia Earhardt’s.

Except for steelworkers, suffering from cheap overseas competition, this is a sunny snapshot of a divided nation. No serpent lurks in Schwartzberg’s Eden.

While it’s not a sectarian film, The Mouse is marketing it much like Mel Gibson sold “The Passion of the Christ,” with lots of special interest group screenings. And if you call 1-888-347-6396, you can get a free “America’s Heart & Soul” Bible study guide.





(c) 2004, .

Visit The Dallas Morning News on the World Wide Web at http://www.dallasnews.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): HEARTSOUL

AP-NY-06-29-04 1724EDT



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