suggest films about u.s. immigration

Looking for film suggestions for a Gen Ed course on immigrant literature.  Feature films that are accessible and teachable–I’m thinking of doing 2-3 films in addition to the literature.  This is a new course with a historical span.  Also anything featuring immigrants in the Midwest would be great too.  Thanks!


5 thoughts on “suggest films about u.s. immigration”

  1. I once successfully used the silly comedy Born in East L.A. in a first-year course. I thought there was a film about the Cambodian population in the Midwest, particularly Minnesota, but the title escapes me. Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino is highly ideologically loaded–therefore potentially very provocative for a class. Godfather Part 2 is, of course, a great pop masterpiece about the difficulties of assimilation. The Emigrants is a Swedish film about Swedish immigrant farmers coming to the US (again Minnesota).

  2. I’m not sure it is the most on-topic, but Michael Kang’s The Motel comes to mind. It is more of a coming-of-age film about a young, creative, Cantonese-American boy growing up in a motel on the fringes of an urban city. What I remember most was the way the film delineated those geographical spaces which were once bustling but have now become seedy or run down (and how such spaces provide hard-working immigrant entrepreneurs an affordable site to work toward achieving the American dream). There is also the documentary The Lost Boys of Sudan. John Sayles’ Lone Star also comes to mind. And though it is sentimental, I am very fond of Jim Sheridan’s In America. What about House of Sand and Fog?

  3. Sweet Land got a bit of local press, ‘though I can’t vouch for it. But it’s an MN tale, and has an interesting production context.

    Mississippi Masala? If Arnab won’t make faces.

    Sayles circles around the issues in a few films, I think–but Brother from Another Planet might be an interesting fabulist spin?

    Chaplin has a short called “The Immigrant,” which I dimly recall.

  4. hi sun hee. i was very struck by the sheer power of Sin Nombre. it’s about central american immigrants making the incredibly dangerous journey to “america” on top of a train. the main threat for them is while they are still in mexico, because of gang kidnappings.

    i also liked the italian movie Golden Door, which is about a sicilian guy immigrating to american at the beginning of the 20th century. the most powerful part is the culture shock and humiliation of ellis island. the drawback is that it’s got subtitles.

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