In 2014, Long Island native Janine Stange became the first person in the United States to perform the "Star-Spangled Banner" in all 50 U.S. states, a journey inspired by Stange's desire to honor America's brave and a journey she followed up in 2015 by singing the national anthem every hour for 24 hours straight as part of an effort to raise funds for a military charity.
Directed by Jefferson Moore, the feature doc National Anthem Girl is an inspirational, feel good doc about a young woman's sense of calling that seemingly begins as a whisper yet grows into an undeniable sense of duty and responsibility that leads to tremendous effort, personal sacrifice, and an ever increasing time commitment. While National Anthem Girl undeniably celebrates Stange, it does so in a low-key, heartfelt way that complements Stange's charismatic yet down-to-earth personality.
National Anthem Girl breezes along at a nice pace, the original music by BJ Davis complementing Stange's vibrant presence quite nicely while Kevin Crisp's lensing for the film is creative and energetic without distracting from the heart of the film - Stange's presence and messages of not just patriotism and honoring military but also of pursuing one's goals with dedication and discipline.
Stange's nearly two-year long journey, which ended on August 28th, 2014 when she sang the national anthem on Nashville's LP Field before a Tennessee Titans pre-season game, is the kind of journey that changes one's life and, indeed, it is a journey that has transformed the frustrated singer's life into one of motivational speaking, singing, broadcasting and more as Stange's dedication to the U.S. military has transformed not just her own life but the lives of countless others around her.
It's rather surprising to learn that Stange doesn't come from a military family nor, in fact, a particularly patriotic one. It was initially simply her love of the national anthem as a song that drew her to it and it's a song she's been singing publicly since her high school days. She does so with a mix of honest passion and electric bravado, her gifted voice nicely matched to the song's varying highs and lows and her presence radiating a sincerity that makes the words actually mean something.
You feel it when Stange sings it.
Stange completed her quest without the support of professional organizers or agents, a quest that, not so coincidentally, found her wrapping up just in time for the song's 200th anniversary celebration in Baltimore. National Anthem Girl is at its most effective when Stange is either alongside other singers or simply encouraging others to sing the national anthem, a song she views as uniting people of different paths and a song that she sees as building a bridge between all Americans. While that may sound a bit like a Hallmark Greeting card, it's a truth that Stange lives into and her entire being radiates her embrace of the song as an absolutely essential ingredient into the identity of what it means to be an American.
While you may be tempted to see this as one grand attention-seeking effort by Stange, rest assured that she fervently shines the spotlight on others. After each of her performances, Stange sets up a booth and encourages fans to write thank you-notes and inspirational messages that are shared through Operation Gratitude. Indeed, she organizes these kinds of campaigns often even now that the journey across America has long since been completed.
Stange is absolutely infectious and, as a result, National Anthem Girl is a spirited and infectious feature-documentary that both entertains and inspires in abundance. Celebrating both America and those who serve it with great self-sacrifice, Stange is the kind of woman you can't help but fall in love with and you can't help but celebrate right along with her.
Currently available via Amazon Prime, National Anthem Girl is a perfect choice this Veteran's Day for veterans, those who love them, and those who appreciate their immense sacrifices.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic