Sunday, July 24, 2011

Eligible voters, please select three films!



In September, we will be continuing a film series at Homewood Friends Meetinghouse in Baltimore, and the theme is immigration.  One film is selected for this First Friday series, but we need three more.  Thanks to all who made suggestions.


If you plan to be in Baltimore to possibly see one of the four films [September through December], you are eligible to vote.  Please select the three films you would like to see. Thanks.






Bread and Roses (2000) by Ken Loach dusts off a venerable slogan of the U.S. labor movement. The call for ''bread and roses,'' as a present-day union organizer named Sam Shapiro (Adrien Brody) explains in the movie, originated among the striking textile workers in Lowell, Mass., in 1912. Those workers, many of them women and immigrants, like the Los Angeles office cleaners Sam represents, asserted their rights not only to sustenance, but to beauty as well.  In ''Bread and Roses,'' true to form, there is a long, passionate discussion in a storage room after hours, in which the janitors in a sleek glass office high-rise debate the pros and cons of union membership. There are also several tense kitchen-table arguments about the conflicting demands of family security and worker solidarity. As if to balance these moments, there is also a buoyant dance party, a sweet, tentative love story, and, most of all, Pilar Padilla in the role of Maya, an illegal immigrant from Mexico whose mischief and militancy lift the film beyond didacticism and transform it into a vital and complex piece of political art.


Crossing Over is a 2009 independent drama film with Harrison Ford, an ICE agent, Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd about illegal immigrants of different nationalities struggling to achieve legal status in Los Angeles. The film deals with the border, document fraud, the asylum and green card process, work-site enforcement, naturalization, the office of counter-terrorism and the clash of cultures. Crossing Over was written and directed by Wayne Kramer, himself an immigrant from South Africa, and is a remake of his 1995 short film of the same name. Kramer produced the film alongside Frank Marshall.


Day Without a Mexican, a 2004 film directed by Sergio Arau, is a fantasy in which all Mexicans in California suddenly disappear. It takes a satirical look at the range of effects on the non-Latino Californians, and the disappearance coincides with a "pink fog" which surrounds California. Nothing crosses the pink fog border, and it is said to be responsible for the lack of telephone and internet communications outside the state. During the course of which many theories are brought up concerning the disappearance of the Mexicans from Biological warfare/terrorism to government experiment conspiracies to Alien Abductions and the Rapture.


Dirty Pretty Things is a 2002 drama directed by Stephen Frears and written by Steven Knight about two “illegal” immigrants in London. Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a Nigerian man who drives a cab in London during the day and works at the front desk of a hotel at night. Okwe was formerly a doctor in Nigeria. In London he is pressed into giving medical treatment to other poor immigrants — including fellow cab drivers with venereal diseases.


A prostitute known as Juliette (Sophie Okonedo) tells Okwe to check a room in which she was staying and he finds the toilet overflowing. While fishing out the blockage, he finds a human heart. The manager of the hotel, Juan (Sergi López), runs an illegal operation at the hotel where immigrants swap kidneys for forged passports. After learning of Okwe's past as a doctor, Juan pressures him to join his operation as a surgeon, but Okwe refuses.  Okwe shares an apartment with Senay (Audrey Tautou). Senay is a Turkish woman who works as a maid in the same hotel. The two immigrants form a friendship, but their situation becomes complicated when immigration police begin to chase her and suspect that she is working against the terms of her status.


Dying to Get In -- Director and scriptwriter Robin Benger in this documentary lets the viewer know that millions of people roam the Earth looking for work and a permanent home. One of the favorite destinations is Canada. However, as public attitudes harden, Canada is slamming the door. Regardless, people are dying trying to get into the country.  


FROZEN RIVER makes the point that there is only a few more smuggling days left before Christmas? Venturing deep into the trenches where hard-working people struggle to put food on the table, Courtney Hunt’s somber film evokes a perfect storm of present-day woes: “illegal” immigration, ethnic tension, depressed real estate, high gas prices and dire poverty.  The film’s setting, in upstate New York at the Canadian border, is a gray wintry landscape of mud and slush dotted with trailers and discount stores. The closest thing to a social hub is a bingo parlor on the Mohawk reservation that straddles the frozen St. Lawrence River. Here is where the husband of Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo), the hard-bitten mother of two sons, 15-year-old T. J. (Charlie McDermott) and 5-year-old Ricky (James Reilly), gambled away the family’s meager savings before deserting them, leaving no word.


Hester Street (1975) is a small movie about the struggles and transformations of the Jews who settled in the Lower East Side and tried to reconcile the ordered values they brought along with the unmarked opportunities they found. The cast of "Hester Street" is superlative, and Carol Kane in the starring role is extraordinary. The film tells the comic and painful Americanization of Jake and Gitl, an immigrant couple from Russia. Gitl arrives and brings with her not only hideous complications for Jake's love life, but also the dress, the bearing, the language and the customs of the Russian ghetto that Jake has so exuberantly put behind.


The film is constructed on a series of sharp, brief incidents. There is Jake at Ellis Island meeting Gitl, who is arrayed — clothes, bundles, bags—like a whole history of the Diaspora. "For what purpose are you bringing this woman in?" an official asks Jake. "For the purpose she's my wife," he answers in a near-howl. The film is in black and white.


SUGAR – Director Anna Boden tells us the story of a baseball player from the Dominican Republic tries to make it in the USA. Since Ozzie Virgil joined the New York Giants in 1956, the Dominican Republic has provided the American major leagues with talent like the Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, the Alou brothers, Rico Carty, Manny Mota and present-day stars like the aforementioned David Ortiz (Big Papi) of the Boston Red Sox, Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Robinson Canó of the New York Yankees and José Reyes of the New York Mets. Like the N.B.A. in urban centers across America, beisbol for Dominicans is seen as the quickest, most glamorous route out of poverty, which in the Dominican Republic is as hard to ignore as the Caribbean Sea.

Which Way Home shows the personal side of immigration through the eyes of children who face harrowing dangers with enormous courage and resourcefulness as they endeavor to make it to the United States.  The film follows several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train they call "The Beast." Director Rebecca Cammisa (Sister Helen) tracks the stories of children like Olga and Freddy, nine-year-old Hondurans who are desperately trying to reach their families in Minnesota, and Jose, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran who has been abandoned by smugglers and ends up alone in a Mexican detention center, and focuses on Kevin, a canny, streetwise 14-year-old Honduran, whose mother hopes that he will reach New York City and send money back to his family. These are stories of hope and courage, disappointment and sorrow.


Written by Ligiah Villalobos — who worked as a studio executive and knows what sells — and directed, with visible earnestness, by Patricia Riggen, “Under the Same Moon” blunts the hard edges of immigration with a thick coating of preciousness. Despite engaging performances from Ms. del Castillo and the terrific Eugenio Derbez as a testy road warrior — and some astute “Ugly Betty” product placement in the form of an America Ferrera cameo — the movie appears intended solely to encourage critics to wear out the word “heartwarming.”


The Beautiful Country is directed by Hans Petter Moland, and

produced by Terrence Malick.  Tim Roth and Nick Nolte star in this 2004 Vietnam-related drama set in 1990. The film tells the story of Binh, a Vietnamese boy who is often referred to as a "bui doi" (a derogatory term which has come to refer to a Vietnamese-born child fathered by an American soldier during the Vietnam War). After a life of prejudice and servitude, Binh decides to leave his tiny Vietnamese village and search for his mother in Saigon. Binh finds his mother, Mai, and discovers he has a younger brother, energetic and precocious Tam. Mai is employed by Mrs. Hoa, the cruel mistress of a great house. After getting a job at the house with his mother, Binh discovers that she is sexually harassed constantly by Mrs. Hoa's son.


"The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" strikes both fresh and familiar chords, most of them pleasingly dissonant. Directed with a steady hand and an eye for eccentric detail by the actor Tommy Lee Jones, who also stars, this western about a Texas ranch foreman trying to bury his Mexican friend is an accounting of those borders that separate rich from poor, men from women, friend from stranger, and as such, is less an act of revisionism than one of reconsideration. As in most westerns, as in John Ford's "Searchers" and Cormac McCarthy's "Crossing," the journey here is as spiritual as it is physical, as much inwardly directed as outward bound. The first burial of the Mexican ranch hand Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cesar Cedillo) takes place soon after he is gunned down outside a Texas border town. A feasting coyote leads to the body, which in turn leads to a sham investigation. The local law, represented by a martinet called Sheriff Belmont (a great Dwight Yoakam), buries Melquiades a second time with a backhoe, despite the protests of the dead man's friend Pete (Mr. Jones). The corpse doesn't rest in peace for long. Pete, who affectionately called Melquiades son, starts sniffing around and finds a suspect in the person of a violent border patrolman, Mike Norton (Barry Pepper). With a gun and a couple of hard blows, Pete grabs Mike and then, as easily as if the two were digging for earthworms, they grab Melquiades.  The film is nevertheless the story of friendship that transcends borders created by policy, prejudice, wind, sun and sand. Warning: Rated R because of some intense violence and one very unsettling animal death.


"The Visitor" a widowed professor, played by character actor Richard Jenkins, reconnects with some previously lost part of himself after he befriends two illegal immigrants living in New York.  Written and directed by Tom McCarthy, who made his debut with the understated and beautifully shaped "The Station Agent" in 2003, is pleasurable on so many levels that what it's about becomes far less important than what it is. Walter is called to New York to deliver a paper he co-wrote (we later learn that the paper held so little interest for him that he barely had a hand in its writing), and he has a place to stay: He's kept an apartment there for years.  When he unlocks the door, he's startled to find that two people -- both of them illegal immigrants -- have taken up residence there: A Syrian musician named Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and his girlfriend, Zainab (Danai Gurira), who is originally from Senegal and who makes jewelry, which she sells from a table on the street. Tarek is arrested, and not as the result of any wrongdoing. His mother, Mouna (played by the extraordinary actress Hiam Abbass, star of "The Syrian Bride" and "Satin Rouge"), treks from Detroit to New York to try to help him.


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


No comments: