Friday, April 17, 2009

Through the Lens: Immigration in Film

So I thought I'd do something a bit different today, changing it up from my usual talk of immigration news and politics and talk about film.

Recently, a lot of really excellent films dealing with issues and themes related to immigration have come out. I try to see as many as I can, so I've put up both the trailers and my thoughts on those here. I've also put up a few trailers of films I am planning to see soon.

Sin Nombre- I saw this film when it was released in select theaters around the U.S. a couple of weeks ago. I don't quite know how to describe it except to say that it has the rawness of City of God with a cinematographic texture that is utterly real. While capturing the small details of the train ride north, it provides no romanticization of the journey and portrays violence as crudely as it does survival.

The Least of These- [Update: I saw this film last night (4/20) and it was amazing. Even better? They've made it available FOR FREE with online streaming. Click here.] This is one of the films that I haven't actually seen yet, but I am going on Monday when it will be shown at the E Street Theater here in DC as part of the annual film fest. The film depicts a medium security detention facility which holds immigrant children and families as part of the U.S. immigration enforcement scheme. I've heard nothing but good things.

Made in L.A.- While Made in L.A. actually came out a couple of years ago, I didn't see it until three (?) weeks ago when it was shown on the House side of Capitol Hill. The documentary follows three women through their three-year campaign to win basic labor protections from Forever 21. It's a powerful and compelling story, and is now being used as part of the national campaign to raise awareness for the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform

An Unfinished Dream- Another one of the film's I haven't seen yet, but tells the story of children we in the immigration community call "Dreamers," students who were born overseas but lived their entire lives in the United States with undocumented status. Their legal immigration status depends on the DREAM Act, a bill which would grant students who had completed two years of higher education a path to legal status.

God Grew Tired of US- This is an incredible documentary capturing the story of the "Lost Boys," a group of teenage boys who walked over 1,000 miles through the desert to escape Sudan's civil war before coming to the United States.


  1. Nice post. I like the switch up... and its so tru that sometimes film (and music, I have to add) can say just the right thing that words cannot convey. Is there any way to find these full films online, or through a Blockbuster/indee rental joint or something?

  2. Hey Ihotu!

    So I saw "The Least of These" at the DC International Film Fest last night. It is a great documentary that really brings to light some of the more troubling aspects of the US immigration detention system.

    And the coolest thing is that--because the directors want their film to be used as an advocacy tool--they've made it available FOR FREE online at

    You should check it out.

    Other than that, I own Made in LA and God Grew Tired of Us if you ever want to borrow them. And Sin Nombre is playing at E Street right now.

    (For all you non-DCers, feel free to contact me as well and I can give you advice on how to get ahold of these films.)

    Loved the guitar pic by the way!

  3. I would add FROZEN RIVER to the list.

  4. Thanks for the suggestion, Jack. I've not seen Frozen River, but I'll check it out.