Top 10 Immigration Films : Watch Today, Act Tomorrow!

Immigration is one of the more complicated issues facing Americans these days and sadly we don't see or hear about it very often. Below is a list of 10 great films that explore immigration. Some are more serious documentaries while others are narratives that incorporate some of the more human and historic issues of immigration. So enjoy my list of the Top 10 Immigration Films and if you're in the mood to see one in theaters this weekend be sure to go see The Visitor, a great little film that explores how an American college professor and a young immigrant couple grapple with the treatment of immigrants and the legal process post-9/11. It opens on Friday (4/11) so check it out and learn more at it's Takepart website.

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1. Well Founded Fear : An unprecedented inside look at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), award-winning filmmakers Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini take their cameras behind locked doors, where bureaucrats decide the fates of thousands of asylum-seekers each year. To be granted asylum, applicants must demonstrate a "well-founded fear" that their lives would be endangered were they to be deported.The asylum-seekers are at once hopeful and heartbreaking, at times too slick and polished, and in other cases painfully timid. All have the same desire--freedom to stay in America. As asylum officers struggle to determine credibility, balancing sympathy with good sense and tough-mindedness, their hard-made decisions ultimately hold a mirror to the broader, quickly changing, and controversial role of the United States in the world at large. [youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=pSyKSPUtuwA[/youtube]

 to learn more about the National Immigrant Justice Center.

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2. Man Push Cart : Every night while the city sleeps, Ahmad, a former rock star in his native Pakistan, drags his heavy cart along the streets of New York. And every morning, he sells coffee and donuts to a city he cannot call his own. One day, the pattern of this harsh existence is broken by a glimmer of hope for a better life. Directed by Ramin Bahrani. [youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=KRF1EUFdZow[/youtube]

 to learn more about Rights Working Group.

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3. In Between Days : A quiet specimen of personal storytelling at its most exciting, In Between Days intimately portrays the joys and risks of first love and burgeoning adulthood with bracing and undeniable honesty. Aimie (Jiseon Kim) is a teenager recently transplanted from her native South Korea to a snowbound North American city. Disconnected from her single mother and bored at school, she struggles to find her way in a strange land of new faces, only to encounter a strange age of new feelings. Directed by So Yong Kim

 to connect with real life visitors.

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4. Lost Boys of Sudan : Lost Boys of Sudan follows two teenage Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America offering a gripping and sobering peek into the myth of the American Dream. In the late 80s Islamic fundamentalists in Sudan waged war on the country s separatists leaving behind over 20000 male orphans otherwise known as "lost boys." For those who survived this traumatic ordeal and found their way to refugee camps some were chosen to participate in a resettlement program in America a distant place so presumably full of hope and opportunity that the Sudanese sometimes call it Heaven. But what if a free ticket to "Heaven" turned out to be anything but? Sidestepping conventional voice-over narration in favor of real-time close-quarters poignancy Lost Boys of Sudan focuses on Santino and Peter members of the Dinka tribe during their first life-altering year in the United States. Safe at last from physical danger but a world away from home the boys must grapple with extreme cultural differences as they come to understand both the abundance and alienation of contemporary American life.

 to learn about the Public Counsel Law Center.

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5. Fast Food Nation : Don Henderson (Greg Kinnear)-a marketing executive at Mickey's Fast Food Restaurant chain, home of "The Big One"-has a problem. Contaminated meat is getting into the frozen patties of the company's best-selling burger. To find out why, he'll have to take a journey to the dark side of the All-American meal. Leaving the cushy confines of the company's Southern California boardroom for the immigrant-staffed slaughterhouses, teeming feedlots and cookie cutter strip malls of Middle America, what Don discovers is a "Fast Food Nation" of consumers who haven't realized it is they who are being consumed by an industry with a seemingly endless appetite for fresh meat. Directed by Richard Linklater. [youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=zc_z623Wsro[/youtube]

 to connect with experts who represent immigrant detainees.

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6. In America : From Academy Award Nominee Jim Sheridan comes this deeply personal and poignant tale of a poor Irish family searching for a better life In America. Through the eyes of their spunky daughters, two anguished parents find hope and the ability to once again believe in love and magic"even amidst the dangers of New York's harrowing Hell's Kitchen. With mesmerizing performances by Samantha Morton and Djimon Hounsou, In America is "a classic" you won't ever forget. [youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=JNrrLO_Pus8[/youtube]

 to learn about the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

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7. The Godfather Part II : Francis Ford Coppola took some of the deep background from the life of Mafia chief Vito Corleone--the patriarch of Mario Puzo's bestselling novel The Godfather--and built around it a stunning sequel to his Oscar-winning, 1972 hit film. Robert De Niro plays Vito as a young Sicilian immigrant in turn-of-the-century New York City's Little Italy. Coppola weaves in and out of the story of Vito's transformation into a powerful crime figure, contrasting that evolution against efforts by son Michael Corleone to spread the family's business into pre-Castro Cuba. [youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=qJr92K_hKl0[/youtube]

 to learn about immigrant rights from the ACLU.

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8. The House of Sand and Fog : Academy Award winners Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) and Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) deliver stunning performances as two strangers whose conflicting pursuits of the American Dream lead to a fight for their hopes at any cost. What begins as a struggle over a rundown bungalow spirals into a clash that propels everyone involved toward a shocking resolution. [youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=REodL9tT0Cg[/youtube]

 to learn about Families for Freedom.

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9. My American Dream, How Democracy Works Now : (*this film series isn't finished yet but I've been lucky enough to see two work in progress screenings - keep your eyes and ears open for information on it) : The documentary contains multiple, in-depth cinema-verité portraits that are weaved together to illustrate the full-blown social movement. It offers a window into the process of social change in a democracy, into the roots of immigration's place in our culture and national identity and into the ability of the machinery of political life in the United States to address fundamental issues. Camerini and Robertson gained unprecedented access on the Capital Hill. From US senators and congressmen and their very private staffs, to high ranking union leaders, lobbyists and grass-roots crusaders on both sides of the issue, they taped private deliberations and the most intimate of strategy sessions. The highly unusual combination of access and expansive time frame, in conjunction with the intimacy with so many key figures who appear on screen, make our project the most in-depth backstage recording of a social process ever attempted.

 to connect with the facts on issues concerning migration and detention.

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10. Stranger Than Paradise : Rootless Hungarian émigré Willie (John Lurie), his pal Eddie (Richard Edson), and visiting sixteen-year-old cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) always manage to make the least of any situation, whether aimlessly traversing the drab interiors and environs of New York City, Cleveland, or an anonymous Florida suburb. With its delicate humor and dramatic nonchalance, Jim Jarmusch's one-of-a-kind minimalist masterpiece, Stranger Than Paradise, forever transformed the landscape of American independent cinema. [youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=bvWf9djVg9c[/youtube]

 to get a virtual connection to the immigrant experience.

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