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by Houchang Allahyari

grade: 7

I like to be in America – director Houchang Allahyari’s debut short film – is intended to be nothing more and nothing less: a cheerful and sparkling experiment in order to take his first steps into the film world.

Life beyond the ocean

America. A legend, everyone’s dream. The American dream. Many have been (and still are) fascinated by the glorious United States. But is life in America really that perfect? Putting aside any socio-cultural considerations, we cannot fail to recognise that the United States has always played a prominent role in the collective imagination. Even thanks to the numerous films shot in Hollywood. A filmmaker who has in his own way paid homage to faraway America is director Houchang Allahyari, who with I like to be in America (1981) – his debut short film – created a small and interesting homage with an experimental and ironic character.

Footage from the great westerns of film history. A man wearing a cowboy hat wanders through the desert. Music that reminds us so much of a Sergio Leone or John Ford film presages an imminent turning point. Who or what is the man waiting for? He is probably not really waiting for anyone and, on the contrary, takes advantage of the isolated location to do his business.

But that’s not all. A man sitting on a bench watches anxiously as pigeons flock to a tree near him. Just like in Alfred Hitchcock’s famous The Birds. Yet, in this case, nothing particularly disturbing happens. On the contrary, what happens is rather annoying for the poor unfortunate man sitting on the bench: one of the birds poops on his coat. Life and films can sometimes be quite different from each other. Yet, at the same time, life itself can give rise to a totally exciting film.

I like to be in America is a joyful and sparkling film, in which Houchang Allahyari’s camera ironically and amusedly observes every single aspect of everyday life. Or at least the everydayness that is shown to us through films and photographs taken by tourists. The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, striking views of Manhattan. And then, above all, a great homage to the Hollywood of the golden years. Because, in fact, this amusing and colourful short film by Houchang Allahyari is above all a tribute to the seventh art, to the different film genres (from westerns to detective stories and even to cinecomics) and to the film industry, which for years has been making us dream and experience new exciting adventures every day.

A fast-paced montage shows us now stills from famous classics of the past, now images of important personalities, while scenes shot on the street accompany us through the cosmopolitan Manhattan neighbourhood, inside Indian reservations and even at the Walt Disney World Resort.

The year is 1981. Houchang Allahyari had moved to Vienna years earlier and practised as a psychiatrist. Yet the film world had always fascinated him. What better occasion, then, to begin his own journey into the film industry with a great homage to the classics of film history and to Hollywood? I like to be in America – with clear references to Robert Wise’s musical West Side Story (1961) – is intended to be nothing more and nothing less: a cheerful and sparkling experiment in order to take his first steps into the film world.

Original title: I like to be in America
Directed by: Houchang Allahyari
Country/year: Austria / 1981
Running time: 16’
Genre: experimental
Screenplay: Houchang Allahyari
Cinematography: Houchang Allahyari
Produced by: Allahyari Film

Info: the pagecheda of I like to be in America on iMDb