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Documentaries

This list was initially developed by Maddalena Marinari and Anna Pegler-Gordon and is a work in progress. We would welcome suggestions for additional films. If you have suggestions, please contact mmarinar@gustavus.edu.

9500 Liberty

Eric Byler and Annabel Park, 2009.

Prince William County, Virginia becomes ground zero in America’s explosive battle over immigration policy when elected officials adopt a law requiring police officers to question people they have “probable cause” to suspect are undocumented immigrants. (Source: IMDB)

The Cats of Mirikitani

Linda Hattendorf, 2006.

Documentary about red-beret-ed Jimmy Mirikitani, a feisty painter working and living on the street, near the World Trade Center, when 9/11 devastates the neighborhood. A nearby film editor, Linda Hattendorf, persuades elderly Jimmy to move in with her, while seeking a permanent home for him. The young woman delves into the California-born, Japan-raised artist’s unique life which developed his resilient personality, and fuels his 2 main subjects: cats and internment camps. The editor films Jimmy’s remarkable journey back into his incredible past.

Carved in Silence

Felicia Lowe; 1987.

documentary Chinese immigration experiences through Angel Island (Source: Yahoo! Movies)

Crossing Arizona

Joseph Matthew; 2005.

Collection of personal accounts of undocumented Mexican immigration through the Arizona desert. The rising death toll of migrants crossing through Arizona, due to the American crackdown on the Californian and Texan borders, has created several complicated questions of human rights, culture, labor and national security. (Source: Rotten Tomatoes/IMDB)

Dollar a Day, Ten Cents a Dance

1947

Presents a portrait of Filipino farm laborers who came to the United States in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In their recollections, their stories reveal the poverty, and social and cultural difficulties these men experienced. The social life of the men centered around illegal cock fights, athletic clubs, and dance halls. 30 min.

Farmingville

Carlos Sandoval, 2004

Documentary on the attempted murder of two Mexican day laborers in Farmingville, New York. (Source: IMDB)

Food Chains: The Revolution in America’s Fields

Sanjay Rawal, 2014.

Centered on farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida, who launched a hunger strike at the headquarters of Publix supermarkets to protest poor wages and working conditions, this film explores the reasons why exploitation remains rampant in farm work. It particularly focuses on the role that supermarket and fast food supply chains play in keeping farmworkers poor.

God Grew Tired of Us: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan

Christopher Quinn; 2006.

In 1987, Sudan’s Muslim government pronounced death to all males in the Christian south: 27,000 boys fled to Ethiopia on foot. In 1991, they were forced to flee to Kenya; 12,000 survived famine, disease, wild animals, and attacks from soldiers to live in a U.N. camp in Kakuma. Archival footage documents the 1,000 mile flight and life in the camp. A journey’s end for some, this was only the beginning for John, Daniel and Panther, who along with 3,800 other young survivors, were selected by the International Rescue committee to re-settle in the United States. The cameras observe three resilient young men in a complex and confusing western world, illuminating all that has been gained and much that has been lost in the continuing immigrant experience of coming to America. (Source: Rotten Tomatoes/IMDB)

Golden Venture

Peter Cohn; 2006.

Chronicles the struggles of Chinese passengers aboard the Golden Venture, an immigrant smuggling ship that ran aground near New York City in 1993. Many of these immigrants were deported back to China where they faced harsh punishment, while others were detained for up to four years while a group of attorneys saved their cases. (Source: www.goldenventuremovie.com)

H-2 Worker

Stephanie Black, 1990.

Impoverished Jamaicans find little improvement in their lot after immigrating to Florida to work under a special visa. Expose on the exploitation of workers in the Florida sugar cane industry. (Source: IMDB)

Harvest of Shame

Fred W. Friendly and Edward R. Murrow, 1960.

Originally aired on Thanksgiving day, this classic CBS documentary presented by broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow on CBS that showed the plight of migrant agricultural workers.

Lost Boys of Sudan

Megan Mylan and John Shenk; 2003.

LOST BOYS OF SUDAN, directed by San Francisco-based documentary filmmakers Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk, observes the experiences and impressions of two boys from Sudan who were brought to the United States as part of a resettlement program that took place in 2001. Thousands of people were allowed to immigrate to the United States to escape from the civil war that had plagued Sudan for 20 years, driving many of that country’s residents to refugee camps. Peter Dut and Santino Chuor met Mylan and Shank in a refugee camp in Kakuma Kenya, which is where they agreed to make LOST BOYS. The film tracks their passage to the United States, where they settle into lives and jobs in Houston, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri. It is through their eyes that the film communicates both an idea of what Sudan is like in their memories of home, the differences between the lives they led in Africa and their new lives in the United States, and the simple homesickness and frustration that comes with being transplanted to a totally foreign country. In the end, what comes through is their determination to succeed, adapt, and build a strong foundation in their new country, while never forgetting the people they left behind. (Source: Rotten Tomatoes)

Made in L.A.

Almudena Carracedo; 2007.

Made in L.A. is a 2007 documentary film that tells the story of three Latina immigrants as they wage a battle against their employer, a Los Angeles garment factory. After years of domestic abuse and meager salaries, Lupe Hernandez, Maura Colorado, and María Pineda join together in their struggle for self-empowerment and negotiated working conditions. (Source: Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia)

Sentenced Home

Nicole Newnham; 2007.

As a result of stricter post-Sept. 11 antiterrorism laws, three Cambodian-American immigrants living in Seattle face deportation for felony crimes they committed — and served time for — as teens, many years earlier. Following their subjects over the course of three years, filmmakers David Grabias and Nicole Newnham put a human face on immigration in America in this gripping documentary, which screened on PBS’s “Independent Lens” series. (Source: Rotten Tomatoes)

Voices from Mariel

José Manuel García, 2011.

For the Marielitos, the cost of their mass exodus was outweighed by something previously unimaginable: a chance to pursue their dreams. Dr. Jose García left through Mariel as a 13 year-old boy. Thirty years later, his journey of self discovery takes us through personal accounts of people whose lives were transformed by El Mariel; those who left and those who stayed behind. Culminating with his long anticipated trip back to his birthplace, we see the emotional reunion of family and friends as we explore and listen to the unheard Voices From Mariel. (Source: Rotten Tomatoes)

The Wall

Brian Kaufman, 2018.

An examination of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border reveals the challenges and consequences of President Donald Trump’s border wall plan in unprecedented detail. Developed by USA Today journalists, the film won a Pulitzer Prize.

Welcome to Shelbyville

Kim A. Snyder, 2011.

On the eve of the 2008 election, in this one small town in the heart of America’s Bible Belt, a community grapples with rapidly changing demographics. Just a stone’s throw away from Pulaski, Tennessee (the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan), longtime African American and white residents are challenged with how best to integrate with a growing Latino population and the more recent arrival of hundreds of Muslim Somali refugees (Source: pbs.org)