Immigration in the Movies

Immigrants or immigration play an important role in the movies, just as they play an important part in American life and culture. Whether art reflects life or life reflects art, these films run the gamut between hilarity, drama, and poignancy. If nothing else, you are sure to be entertained!

Brooklyn Castle (2012)

Brooklyn's Junior High School I.S. 318 has ranked highest in the country in chess. 75 percent of the students in this school live below the poverty level. Many of them are children of immigrants who know how much their parents sacrificed in order for them to have opportunities like this. They see success on the chess team as being tied their getting into good high schools, then good colleges, and finally careers that will allow them to support their families.

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A Better Life (2011)

Single father, Carlos, wants a better life for his only son, 14-year-old Luis. The clashes between father and son are, in many ways, not unlike those in many families. Living in East L.A., Luis sees his best friend tempted toward joining a gang, when Carlos needs his son's help after he has been cheated. The son begins to understand his father's nonviolence and "keep your head down" approach as something much more than cowardice or indifference.

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My Name is Khan (2010)

This is Forrest Gump for a post-9/11 world. It is the beautiful story of a Muslim man with Asperger's syndrome, who has a desire to meet the president to tell him, "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist." Rizwan Khan is a man whose capacity for love and kindness knows no bounds. He is played spectacularly by Shahrukh Khan.

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Welcome (2009)

French film about an young Iraqi Kurd who wants to swim the English Channel to get to his girlfriend in the U.K. He is helped by a swimming instructor who faces an end to his marriage.

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Sin Nombre [Nameless] (2009)

Spanish language film about a Honduran family trying to reach the United States and build a life there. Feature film debut by writer / director Cary Joji Fukanaga, American born of his Japanese father and Swedish mother. A winner at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

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Backyard (2009)

Filmmaker Carlos Carrera's immigration drama, starring Jimmy Smits in this fictional account of a series of murders of young women drawn as low-paid laborers to a Mexican town for the possibility of work at American-owned factories.

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Gran Torino (2008)

Gritty, harsh portrayal of retired auto worker and U. S. veteran, Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), whose neighborhood has changed from the descendants of Polish immigrants, like himself, to the Hmong people who are refugees from Southeast Asia. The racist attitudes and epiphytes are difficult for modern P.C. sensibilities, but accurate and central to the ultimate understanding of retribution and family bound by blood that has nothing to do with kinship. Clint Eastwood stars in and directs this masterpiece.

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The Accidental Husband (2008)

A stellar cast appears in this off-beat comedy about a radio psychologist who advises the wrong woman to cancel her marriage plans to her fiancé, Patrick (Jeffery Dean Morgan), and get practical about love. Dr. Emma Lloyd (Uma Thurman), herself, is engaged to steady, reliable Richard (Colin Firth). The immigrant connection is Patrick's best friend, Deep (Ajay Naidu) whose family owns the Indian restaurant, over which he lives. His relationship with them is portrayed so naturally that the mutual embrace of cultures and traditions is a beautiful thing to behold.

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Paraiso Travel (2008)

Adapted from Jorge Franco's novel of the same name, this is the story of a Colombian couple who leave Medellin and flee through Guatemala and Mexico, illegally crossing borders, finally reaching the United States. Seedy strip clubs, dance halls, homeless shelters all lead Marlon Cruz (Ademar Correa) to a place he could not have predicted. Directed by Simon Brand.

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Sugar (2008)

A baseball player from the Dominican Republic - Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) - is recruited to play minor league ball in the U.S. This is a poignant portrayal of the alienation and loneliness of immigrant experience. From filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden.

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Goodbye Solo (2008)

This film by American writer / director Ramin Bahrani is touching and humorous. It is the story of an unlikely friendship between Solo (Souléymane Sy Savané), a struggling but happy cab driver from Senegal, and William (Red West), a tormented southern man with secrets.

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The Visitor (2007)

Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is a lonely economics professor in Connecticut. His life is changed forever - and for the better - when he finds a couple of illegals, who happen to be living in his New York apartment. Directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent 2003).

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The Kite Runner (2007)

Based on the acclaimed novel by Khaled Hosseini, this film is about the power of a childhood friendship to endure beyond a separation caused by war and by death. Directed by Marc Forster (Stranger Than Fiction 2006 and Monster's Ball 2001).

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Under the Same Moon (2007)

Heartwarming story about a mother who leaves Mexico to make a home for herself and her son (Adrian Alonso). When the boy's grandmother dies, leaving him alone, he sets off on his own to find his mother (Kate del Castillo). Directed by Patricia Riggen. Fox Searchlight purchased this film at the Sundance Film Festival. Recognizing that this theme is more than just the plot for a movie, the film's website has provided links to organizations that help to reunite separated immigrant families.

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Sentenced Home (2007)

This documentary follows three Cambodian-American men, brought to the U.S. as children by their refugee families. They were raised in the grim public housing of Seattle, among gangs and other realities of that life. Bad choices as teens altered their lives forever, when immigration laws after 9/11 provided no second changes for such children. Though they were raised in the U.S., speak to one another in English, even think in English, each is sentenced to return to Cambodia - separated from family here, possibly forever. Produced and directed by Nicole Newnham.

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A Slim Peace (2007)

U.K. director Yael Luttwak follows 14 women in the West Bank - Israelis, Palestinians, Bedouin Arabs, and American settlers - who have the shared goal of losing weight. This universal struggle is no less important and no less personal in a land of perpetual conflict. Their common goal shows them that they have far more in common than they would have believed. Premièred at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

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Miss Universe 1929 (2007)

Director Peter Forgacs (El Parro Negro, 2005) returns to Tribeca with this true story of Marci Tenczer, amateur filmmaker, who, smitten with his cousin, follows her from her modest Austrian roots to her crowning as the first Miss Universe at a pageant in Texas. Her rise coincides with that of Adolf Hitler, who turns the universe upside-down.

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Forging a Nation (2007)

Director David Blaustein retraced the steps of his Jewish ancestors accompanied by his mother and a host of extended family. Having fled Europe in the 1920s, hoping for a bright future in Argentina, the journey of the film becomes an exploration of the many people and the many factors that joined to build Argentina. Presented for the first time in North America at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

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Beyond Belief (2007)

This documentary premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival is the story of two amazing women who lost their husbands in 9/11. Greif is turned to action as they are compelled to travel to Kabul to help women the who are widowed there.

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32nd Street (2007)

Premièred at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, this film is directed by Michael Kang; written by Michael Kang and Edmund Lee. It is the story of an ambitious young attorney who pushes his way onto a homicide case and infiltrates New York's Korean syndicate.

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Pedro Nuestro (2007)

Sundance 2007 brings us this film written and directed by Christopher Zalla. Juan and Pedro meet on a truck carrying illegal immigrants from Mexico to New York. Pedro is on his way to find the father he has never known. He shows Juan a letter of introduction, written by his deceased mother. When they arrive in New York, Pedro wakes to find his new friend has vanished - along with Pedro's belongings. Pedro Nuestro is a thriller about stolen identity, but it is also a tale of the human need to be loved.

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Never Forever (2007)

This film from the Sundance film festival is about a biracial American couple. When the woman is unable to conceive, she boldly begins a relationship with an illegal immigrant from Korea. This films has been praised for its art direction and costume design. Writer / director Gina Kim has also received accolades for her abilities and Vera Farmiga for her role as the ethereal beauty, Sophie.

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The Namesake (2006)

The film adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's acclaimed novel by the same name. Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding 2000), Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle 2004) stars as Gogol in this tale of a first generation son of traditional, Indian immigrant parents. As he tries to make a place for himself, not always able to straddle two worlds gracefully, he is surprised by what he learns about his family and himself.

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Golden Venture (2006)

Documentary by filmmaker Peter Cohn that traces the lives of passengers of a freighter, smuggling 286 immigrants, that ran aground near New York in 1993. Hoping their expensive journey (at least $30,000 each) from China's Fujian Province would buy them entry into the U.S. and the anonymity necessary to merge unnoticed, the crash of the Golden Venture was the beginning of their experience in American bureaucracy, as the whims of the INS and the U.S. Department of Justice played out in the courts.

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Fast Food Nation (2006)

Writer / director Richard Linklater (A Scanner Darkly 2006) brings this dramatization of the non-fiction book by Eric Schlosser to the big screen. A raw look at the impact the fast-food industry has on American life and culture - which cannot be portrayed without including undocumented workers. Greg Kinnear (As Good as it Gets 1997), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace 2004), and Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine 2006) star.

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Sweet Land (2006)

Based on Will Weaver's short story, "A Grave Made of Wheat," Sweet Land is a flashback to 1920s Minnesota, when Lars Torvik's grandparents met on their wedding day that wasn't. It is a story of love and trial and strength of will and prejudice. It is the story of how the American heartland was settled by immigrants. Olaf and Inge represent the grandparents and great-grandparents of many Americans. Written and directed by Ali Salim, himself the son of first-generation immigrants.

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In Between Days (2006)

Competitor in the independent drama category at Sundance 2006, this is a coming-of-age film about a KoreanAmerican teenager, though it is more than that and not easily categorized, exploring many facets of humanity, relationships, and communication. Starring Jiseon Kim as Aimie, and directed by So Yong Kim, the dynamic between director and actress expresses much more than dialog alone would accomplish.

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God Grew Tired of Us (2006)

Won the jury prize and audience award for U.S. documentaries at Sundance 2006. The film follows three Sudanese boys, refugees from Sudan's bloody civil war, as they try to adjust to life in the U.S. Coming from unspeakable conditions, young witnesses of unspeakable horrors, their honesty and goodness is unquestionable. And so the question raised is, "What conditions create a civilized society?" Directed by Christopher Quinn.

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Breaking and Entering (2006)

A film that shows that alienation comes in many forms to all kinds of people - just as kindness reaches into the darkest of places. Jude Law and Juliette Binoche star in this film by director Anthony Minghella.

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Welcome Europa (2006)

French documentary in which Director Bruno Ulmer follows Kurdish, Moroccan, and Romanian young men who migrate to Europe to find better lives. What they find instead is disillusionment as they hunt for food and work - stuck on the bottom-most rung of society in Paris, Amsterdam, and other cities in Europe.

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Babel (2006)

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu seems to be telling parallel, but unrelated stories. As this film unfolds, we discover the relationships and the devastation that destroys the lives of everyone except the white, financially secure, American couple (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) who, as things begin, appear to be the greatest sufferers of injustice and random violence. An embarrassing portrayal of America's advantaged, privileged class, asserting its entitlement and importance over the perennial, pronounce suffering injustice lived by others.

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The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)

Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black 1997) stars in and directs this unusual movie about promises, both kept and broken, and redemption. The truest expression of love in the film is between Texas cowboy, Pete (Jones), and his best friend, Melquiades (Julio Cesar Cedillo), who has illegally crossed the border for work. Barry Pepper gives a startling performance as the heartless CBP officer.

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Game 6 (2005)

This is a quietly brilliant little film about a Broadway playwright, Nicky Rogan (Michael Keaton), whose opening night coincides during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox. Robert Downey, Jr. is the loathsome critic who is about to plunge Nicky's career into the toilet. The immigrant connection comes in with each taxi ride, and is a wonderful element of the film. This is a story about connections. Connecting over the theatre. Connection over taxis. And, largely, connecting over baseball.

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Eve and the Fire Horse (2005)

The search for salvation evokes a kaleidoscopic blend of Buddhas and crucifixes, when the mother (Vivian Wu) of two Chinese girls (Hollie Lo and Phoebe Kut) brings bad luck on the household. Told from the child's point of view, this delightful gem comes from writer / director Julia Kwan (Three Sisters on Moon Lake 2001).

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Romántico (2005)

This is a tale of two Mariachi musicians who come to San Francisco, trying to make a better life for themselves and scrape out a living. Eventually, Carmelo Sanchez has to return to Mexico to care for his ailing mother. Directed by Mark Becker.

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La Tragedia de Macario (2005)

Writer, director, editor Pablo Véliz brought this immigrant story to Sundance 2006 for its world premiere. In the title role, Rogelio Ramos is drawn to the U.S. to find a better life for his wife in this Spanish language film. Joined by his best friend, the two set out on the dangerous journey undertaken by so many each year. Véliz's insight is the desperation that drives them and the spirituality that sustains them as they risk their lives.

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Quinceañera (2005)

A jury prize and audience award winner in the U.S. drama competition at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer wrote and directed this look into the life of an unconventional family and their Los Angeles neighborhood, threatened by urban development, generally passed with windows up and doors locked.

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DeNADIE (2005)

Presented in the World Documentary category at Sundance 2006, this film comes from Mexico and follows the path traced by many leaving South and Central America bound for freedoms and opportunities too basic to be rightfully exclusive. A filmmaking neophyte, Tin Dirdamal approaches the medium with the sensitivity and skill of a veteran, drawing us into the oft-told story of immigrant hardships, presenting it in a way that makes it more real and personal than we possibly could have understood before.

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Crossing Arizona (2005)

A documentary presented at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, this film explores escalating tensions over illegal immigration at their epicenter - the Arizona / Sonora border. Human rights, national security, class, and culture are explored through the personal experiences of the locals on both sides of the border in this balanced look at the issues. Directed by Joseph Mathew.

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Everything is Illuminated (2005)

Liev Schreiber writes and directs this quirky film adaptation of the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, in which a young Ukrainian man, Alex (Eugene Hutz) and his grandfather (Boris Leskin) forge an unlikely alliance with Jonathan Safran Foer (Yes, our hero has the same name as the novel's author.). Jonathan (Elijah Wood) is a young American Jew on a pilgrimage to the small village from which his grandfather escaped, in search of the woman whom the family believes saved their patriarch from the Nazis. Jonathan is not the only one who finds something on this journey, however.

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The Keeper : The Legend of Omar Khayyam (2005)

Starring Vanessa Redgrave (Julia 1978), a young boy, Kamran, learns that the 11th century Persian poet was his ancestor. It becomes his responsibility to keep the oral history of his family alive. This is the first film of Iranian-American director Kayvan Mashayekh. a newcomer to the filmmaking industry, having left his career as a lawyer in Houston. Mashayekh was researching locations abroad on September 11, 2001, making the financing and creation of this film all the more difficult.

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Night of Henna (2005)

A film by Hassin Zee that takes place in San Francisco, this independent production is about Hava (Pooja Kumar), who has returned to the United States after a traditional upbringing in Pakistan. At the very time when her eyes are opened to the possibilities of life, those possibilities are threatened by her impending, arranged marriage. Zee is a true Renaissance man, preferring to write, direct, and produce films rather than make a career that uses his doctoral degree in medicine.

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Sueño (2005)

This was the directorial debut of Renee Chabria, who also wrote the screenplay. A young man (John Leguizamo) with musical aspirations leaves Mexico to realize his dreams of success in America. There he meets Mirabella (Elizabeth Peña) and Nina (Ana Claudia Talancón), and finds himself in a love triangle.

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Saving Face (2004)

Written and directed by Alice Wu, this is the story of a lesbian, Chinese-American doctor in Manhattan and her pregnant, unmarried mother. It is a film that faces taboos and the clash between first and 2nd generation immigrants with a loving look at this mother-daughter relationship. (Michelle Krusiec, Joan Chen, and Lynn Chen)

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Spanglish (2004)

Mexican mother, Flor (Paz Vega), enters the U.S. with her young daughter seeking a better life. When she accepts a position as a domestic with an American family it becomes very difficult to maintain her privacy and distance. A story about assimilation, this film provides lessons on tolerance for the misguided but good intentions of immigrants as well as the Americans who employ and/or befriend them. Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, and Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show 1971).

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Bride and Prejudice (2004)

A Bollywood twist on Jane Austin's classic novel Pride and Prejudice, the conflict between Darcy (Martin Henderson) and Lalitha (Aishwarya Rai) is cross-cultural as she makes a choice between the man she wants and the man her mother wants for her.

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Maria Full of Grace (Maria Ilena eres de Gracia) (2004)

This film is billed as not being based on a true story, yet it is something that happens everyday. Maria Alvarez (Catalina Sandino Moreno) lives a modest life in a rural area outside Bogotá, Colombia. At 17, her work and her life seem futureless, but Maria's nature is strong and assertive. She meets Franklin (Jhon Alex Toro) at a party. He is stylish and charismatic and tempts Maria with talk of work involving adventure and travel to America. So Maria becomes a mule in the dangerous drug underworld. Joshua Marston (Bus to Queens 1999) directed this film that won awards at Sundance and Berlin.

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The Terminal (2004)

This Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan 1998, Schindler's List 1994) film is about an eastern European man, played by Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump 1995, Philadelphia 1994) on his way to New York when his homeland is overthrown in a coup. He arrives at Kennedy Airport as a man without a country, without a valid passport. Kumar Pallana (The Royal Tenenbaums 2001) plays Gupta. From Madras, Gupta becomes an unlikely hero in the story.

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A Day Without a Mexican (2004)

One third of the population of California are Latinos, Hispanics, Mexicans. How would it change life for the state's other residents if this portion of the populous was suddenly not there? Director Sergio Arau calls his film a "mockumentary." Yareli Arizmendi, married to Arau, co-wrote and stars in the film. She says it is their hope that lawmakers and moviegoers will recognize the valuable contributions made everyday by Latinos.

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The Gatekeeper (2004)

MexicanAmerican John Carlos Frey wrote, directed, and starred in this film about a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent who turns vigilante and goes undercover to pursue those he sees as "undesirables" crossing the U.S. border from Mexico. Things go very wrong when he is caught in the midst of a Central American drug ring, surrounded by those he has hated. But Frey's character begins to see the people as individuals with families and the desire for a sense of 'home.' The most valuable lesson is, perhaps, that humanity knows no borders.

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Lost Boys of Sudan (2003)

This award-winning documentary by Megan Mylan and John Shenk follows two of the many children who were among an estimated twenty thousand forced from their homes and families by the 1987 civil war in southern Sudan. Most were only six or seven years old when their journey began. Of those who survived to reach the refugee camp in Kenya, almost 4,000 were resettled in the U.S. to further their educations. This is the story of two of those boys.

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In America (2003)

Nominated for 3 Academy Awards, this is the story of a modern-day Irish family who crosses the Canadian border, headed for New York in a struggle to shake off their nightmares in search of their American dreams. While it may not be wealth and success that they find, there is a neighbor who gives them friendship and helps them to finally attain peace. Writer / director Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father 1993, and My Left Foot 1989) needed to look no further than his own childhood for inspiration for this film.

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Dirty Pretty Things (2003)

Oscar-nominated for its screenplay by Steven Knight, this is a thriller is about a gruesome underworld in London preying on the fear and desperation of immigrants. Directed by Steven Frears (My Beautiful Launderette 1985), the story centers around a Nigerian immigrant, Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who drives a cab by day and works in a hotel by night and the young Turkish woman (Audrey Tautou) he befriends. Okwe discovers the ghoulish black market, putting their lives in danger.

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House of Sand and Fog (2003)

Nominated for three Academy Awards, this directorial debut for Vadim Perelman is a gripping drama in which Sir Ben Kingsley (Gandhi 1982) plays a proud Iranian colonel living a lie, when he finds an opportunity to improve things for his family by purchasing a home being sold at auction. But Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind 2001) is losing her home - the last shred of hope in her life - through a bureaucratic error, and she will not go down without a fight. It is a story of the American Dream spinning out of control. Shohreh Aghdashloo received a nomination for Best Support Actress as the colonel's wife.

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Green Card Fever (2003)

From new director Bala Rajasekharuni, this is the story of a young immigrant, played by Vikram Dasu, from India who overstays his U.S. visa. Forced to decide who he can trust, he becomes emboldened when he learns that in America, if you want something, you sue somebody for it!

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Flavors (2003)

Written and Directed by software professionals Krishna D.K. and Raj Nidimoru, who have a talent for dialog, Flavors is not a big budget film by the standards of Hollywood or Bollywood. It was noticed by Variety, however, and that is saying something! The two also made Shaadi.com in 2001, in which each makes an appearance in front of the camera.

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Pieces of April (2003)

While not central to the plot, the immigrant neighbors of April (Katie Holmes) help to save the day when her stove breaks on Thanksgiving. She tells them the story of the first Thanksgiving and the spirit of the day prevails in this off-beat independent film with Patricia Clarkson and Oliver Pratt, directed by Peter Hedges (About a Boy 2003 and What's Eating Gilbert Grape 1992).

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Lana's Rain (2003)

Directed by Michael Ojeda, Ukrainian born actress Oksana Orlenko makes her American film debut in the title role which won her a Best Actress award in the Milan International Film Festival. Clinging to the only family she has left, Lana accompanies her brother, Darko (Nickolai Stoilov) to the U.S., leaving Croatia following the Balkan Wars. Darko has survived through criminal activity in Eastern Europe and this is all he knows. But Lana wants simple things and a new life in America.

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Calais: The Last Border (2003)

This television documentary by Marc Isaacs shows Calais, the gateway to Europe for many from the U.K. seeking cheap alcohol. For many refugees, it is the final barrier between them and the new life they yearn for in England or beyond.

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In This World (2002)

Tragic docudrama about Afghani refugees trying to get from Pakistan to London - an illegal journey fraught with danger, back-alley meetings, and black market deals. Directed by Michael Winterbottom. A winner at the 2003 Berlin International Film Festival.

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The Guru (2002)

Ramu (Jimi Mistry) is a dance instructor in the U.K. who decides he is going to America to pursue the American dream. A fan of American movies since childhood, Ramu's goal is to become a film star. Through his own naiveté and a series of coincidences, he fills in for an old guru at a party attended by the rich and famous and becomes famous as a sex guru. Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer with Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny 1992) and Heather Graham (Boogie Nights 1997).

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Spellbound (2002)

This documentary was an unexpected success. It is about the 1999 National Spelling Bee championship competition in Washington D.C. Dry subject? Not in the masterful hands of director Jeffrey Blitz. The film celebrates the diversity of America through the children competing and their families who support them. Of the eight finalists, three are from immigrant families. The competitors are old enough to have rich and individual personalities, yet still young enough that they are not afraid to show themselves as who they really are.

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Gangs of New York (2002)

Martin Scorsese's (The Last Temptation of Christ 1988, Goodfellas 1990) epic film starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic 1997), Cameron Diaz (There's Something About Mary 1998), and Daniel Day Lewis (My Left Foot 1989), depicting the ruthlessness and the division in a 19th century New York between those who were here and the Irish trying to make room for themselves. It is a story of deep-seeded revenge.

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Real Women Have Curves (2002)

Ana (America Ferrera) has graduated from her east Los Angeles high school and won a full scholarship to Columbia University. Rather than support her own dreams, however, Ana's MexicanAmerican parents believe it is time for her to work and help to support the family. Spending the summer working in a sewing factory with other Chicanas, Ana learns a respect for these women and what is essential for her to make her own way in the world.

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Bend it Like Beckham (2002)

This delight, directed by Gurinder Chadha (A Nice Arrangement 1994), is the story of Jesminder Bhamra (Parminder Nagra), daughter of strict Indian Sikh immigrants living in the U.K. Jess is a very gifted football, or soccer, player. Unfortunately, her parents are less than thrilled by this!

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My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

An independent film directed by Joel Zwick, written by Nia Vardalos, who also starred in the film with John Corbett and Michael Constantine (The Hustler 1961). Toula is the dutiful daughter, 30 years old and working in the family-owned Greek diner. She meets and falls in love with Ian Miller - not the nice Greek boy her family had in mind for her! How far are Toula and Ian willing to go to make a marriage her family can live with?

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ABCD (2001)

Starring the acclaimed actress (and author of numerous books on Indian cooking), Madhur Jaffrey (Shakespeare Wallah 1965), as a widow trying to reconcile the decision made decades earlier to move to the United States. It is a story experienced by the children of immigrants the world over. They know no country so well as the one in which they have grown up, but don't feel connected to it or to the country from which their parents came. They are adrift between cultures.

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The Immigrant Garden (2001)

The story behind this film reads like a screenplay, itself. It is a pet, independent project of retired Hollywood film producer, C. Tad Devlin (When a Man Loves a Woman 1994), who left Hollywood for life in the small community of Chehalis, WA. This is the story of a correspondence and friendship between two gardeners - young Cecily in rural Washington and the 80-year-old Mrs. Beauchamp in England. The story is rich in character because its characters are rich, discovering themselves and understanding others.

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Monsoon Wedding (2000)

We include this Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay! 1988) film in our list of movies about immigrants because of a character not most central to the story. Family members gather from all over for the wedding of Adita (Vasundhara Das) and Hemant (Parveen Dabaas). But painful memories of a family secret surface for cousin Ria (Shefali Shetty) with the arrival of a revered uncle (Rajat Kapoor) who now lives in the U.S. Also starring Roshan Seth (Mississippi Masala 1991, My Beautiful Launderette 1985).

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Bread and Roses (2000)

The struggle for fair and just working conditions in the United States has existed as long as there has been one group who would take advantage of the desperation and fear of another. This film from director Ken Loach (The Wind that Shakes the Barley 2006) is the story of two sisters who work as janitors. As undocumented workers from Mexico, they endure hardship and abuses. When a young man (Adrien Brody) comes around attempting to unionize workers, the issue divides them - while dividing Maya and Rosa, as well.

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Tortilla Soup (2000)

It is a story that has been told and will continue to be retold with every new generation and every culture that immigrates to the U.S. Hector Elizondo (Pretty Woman 1990) shines as the Mexican- American patriarch in this successful adaptation of Eat Drink Man Woman 1994, which told a part of the story from the Chinese perspective. It is the tale of a father, his daughters, and the men in their lives. As with every culture, especially when transplanted to another country, food plays a very important part in cultural identity and connections. Directed by Maria Ripoll.

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Do££ar Dream$ (2000)

This chord rings familiar with many, as director Sekhar Kammula, tells the tale of a group of friends, answering the big question - whether or not to go to the U.S. to make a lot of money. One in the group drops her studies to actively pursue their responses.

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Catfish in Black Bean Sauce (1999)

Directed by Chi Moui Lo, who also starred in the film, this is the story of Vietnamese siblings, Dwayne (Lo) and Mai (Lauren Tom), who were adopted by an AfricanAmerican couple (Paul Winfield and Mary Alice) in the U.S. Dwayne is engaged and has adjusted well to his American life. Mai, however, was older when she left Vietnam. She has memories of her birth mother and is driven to search for her.

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Beautiful People (1999)

British film by Bosnian-born filmmaker Jasmin Dizdar. The year is 1993: England is playing the Netherlands in the World Cup qualifiers and the Bosnian War is reaching its crescendo, and refugees from the former Yugoslavia are descending.

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Angela's Ashes (1999)

Based on the autobiographical account of Frank McCort's early life, Angela's Ashes takes a harsh look at poverty and the difficult attempts of one family to survive. The film begins in Brooklyn, New York, where the family has gone in search of a better life. Hard times, and more mouths to feed, however, drive them back to the harsh poverty in Ireland, where, at least, they have family to lean on. We watch Frank grown from a boy to a young man, who eventually is able to return to New York to fulfill his own dreams - and his family's dreams for him.

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La Ciudad (The City) (1999)

This award-winning documentary by writer / filmmaker David Riker played to sold-out crowds in the New York art houses when it opened. It is a series of four shorts Riker began making in 1992 about Mexican workers who come to Manhattan - filled with the American dream but also afraid of the City. Filmed in black and white, the photography has been compared to socially conscious artists such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. The film style itself has been compared to that of Vittoria De Sica's The Bicycle Thief 1948.

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East is East (1999)

George and Ella Khan (played by Om Puri and Linda Bassett) have seven children and lead a modest but happy life as owners of a fish-and-chip shop in Salford, UK. Trouble begins when George, a Pakistani-born Muslim, begins arranging marriages for his sons. The children want to be British, their British mother wants to meld the two cultures into a cohesive home for her family. It is not an unfamiliar tale. Directed by Damien O'Donnell (Inside I'm Dancing - aka Rory O'Shea Was Here 2004).

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Hyderabad Blues (1998)

Directorial debut from 28-year-old chemical engineer Nagesh Kukunoor, this film shows that the confusion of ABCDs exists, not only in their fitting into American culture, but also when they return to India after growing up in the U.S. Produced largely with amateurs on a modest budget, Hyderabad Blues is a romantic comedy that thoroughly entertains and also presents some thought-provoking questions.

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The Journey (1997)

Acclaimed painter-turned-writer / director, Harish Saluja tells the story of an Indian gentleman who comes to visit his son's (Antony Zaki) family in Pittsburg for, what becomes, an extended stay. Played by Roshan Seth (Monsoon Wedding 2000), the elderly visitor has difficulty understanding his American daughter-in-law (Carrie Preston). But he tries to fit into their lives, helping out when he can or simply stepping aside when that seems the better thing to do. This is a movie about cultural clashes and coming to feel comfortable in two very different worlds.

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Lone Star (1996)

Writer / Director John Sayles (The Secret of Roan Inish 1994, Brother from Another Planet 1984) masterfully blends one part Western, one part murder mystery, and one part love story to create this tale of life in a small Texas border town, topped off with Mexicans crossing the river under cover of night. When the remains of the former sheriff are discovered, the current sheriff, Sam, played by Chris Cooper (Adaptation 2002), must solve the murder of his own father. What he discovers leads to a web of lies and corruption that touches everyone - including Sam's high school sweetheart, Pilar, played by Elizabeth Pena (Tortilla Soup 2000). Pena won an Independent Spirit Award for her role.

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French Kiss (1995)

Providing a different point of view, Meg Ryan is Kate, an American emigrant. Kate is becoming a Canadian citizen because she is marrying Charlie (Timothy Hutton), a Canadian. But Charlie goes to Paris for a medical convention, where he meets Juliet (Susan Anbeh). He breaks his engagement to Kate, who flies to Paris to win Charlie back. But on the way, she meets French boorish bad boy, Luc (Kevin Klein). After losing her passport when she was not supposed to leave Canada while her citizenship was pending, Kate finds herself "without country" and she and Luc strike a bargain to get what each of them wants most. Lawrence Kasden directs.

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The Perez Family (1995)

Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny 1992) is Dottie Perez, a young Cuban woman with dreams of America that include Rock & Roll and cowboys. Alfred Molina (Frida 2002) wants to be reunited with his wife (Angelica Houston), who is in America. But when they reach America as Cuban refugees, they are listed as married to one another, greatly complicating things for both of them. Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding 2002).

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My Family (1995)

Directed and co-written by Gregory Nava (writer of El Norte 1984, Frida 2002), this film chronicles three generations of a MexicanAmerican family. Beginning with the journey Jose Sanchez (Jacob Vargas) makes on foot to Los Angeles, the plot follows the family through their adjustment to life in America.

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The Joy Luck Club (1993)

Wayne Wang (Smoke 1995) directed this adaptation of Amy Tan's bestselling novel. It is the story of four Chinese women who immigrated to the U.S. and their first-generation daughters. When one of the women dies, her daughter, June (Ming-Na) plays Mahjong with the older women and begins to really learn what her mother endured in China and of her sisters who were left behind.

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Masala (1993)

The first film by director Srinivas Krishna, this black comedy is told with eccentric characters. The story follows a young Indian man, played by Krishna, himself, who immigrates to Toronto after his family is killed in a plane crash. The film is rich in story, characters, and color.

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The Wedding Banquet (1993)

This comedy by Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility 1995) is the story of a successful Taiwanese man (Winston Chao) in New York whose parents insist it is time he marry. Rather than confess to them that he is gay, he plans a fake marriage to a young artist (May Chin). She is interested only in the green card, but his parents want an elaborate banquet!

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Heaven and Earth (1993)

The final chapter of director Oliver Stone's (Born on the Fourth of July 1989, Platoon 1986) trilogy on the Vietnam War, Heaven and Earth is about a soldier (Tommy Lee Jones) and the Vietnamese wife (Hiep Thi Le) he brings home. Though they have left Vietnam, the effects are far from behind them.

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Combination Platter (1993)

Presented at Cannes in 1993 for Tony Chen's direction, this is his first American film, which is partly in English and partly in Cantonese and Mandarin with subtitles. The setting is a Chinese restaurant in Flushing, New York. Some employees are American-born Chinese (ABCs), some are from China, some are American. The story centers around Robert (Jeff Lau) who will do anything for his green card. Friends encourage him to marry a citizen, but he is not comfortable with non-Asian women.

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Household Saints (1993)

Through two short films, director Nancy Savoca (The 24 Hour Woman 2000) tells us the story of three generations of women in a post-World War II Little Italy, New York. Catherine Falconetti (Tracy Ullman) is forced into a loveless marriage to (Vincent D'Onofrio) Joseph Santangelo, complete with Mrs. Santangelo - the old-world mother-in-law. When the matriarch dies, Catherine ushers her family into a 20th century America, complete with bright colors and Tupperware. Their daughter Teresa (Lili Taylor), however, is not following her parents willingly. Steeped in the tradition of Catholicism, Teresa's goal is sainthood.

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Mississippi Masala (1992)

Denzel Washington (Training Day 2001, The Hurricane 1999) and Sarita Choudhury (Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love 1996) star in this story of cross-cultural romance in the Deep South. She is the daughter of an Indian immigrant family who came to the U.S. by way of Uganda. He is the AfricanAmerican she runs into - literally. Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding 2001).

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The Mambo Kings (1992)

Two musician brothers (Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas) decide to leave Cuba in the 1950s to break into the hot, Latin music scene in New York. Desi Arnez, Jr. plays his father in this film, who is but one real life example of the fact behind this work of fiction. In his first English-language role, Banderas did not yet speak any English, but learned his lines phonetically.

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Far and Away (1992)

Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind 2001, Splash 1984) directed Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in this film that manages to tell the story of both poor and wealthy immigrants from Ireland. While there was a distinct class separation when the two were in their homeland, upon reaching New York they were both despised as Irish. This is the story of their quest for the American dream.

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Green Card (1990)

Directed by Peter Weir (The Year of Living Dangerously 1982, Dead Poets Society 1989), this romantic comedy is about George (Gerard Depardieu) and Bronte (Andie MacDowell). He is from Paris and wants a green card. She is an American who needs a husband to qualify for the green house apartment of her dreams. When the INS gets involved, this is anything but a match made in heaven - or is it?

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Avalon (1990)

In this film, writer / director Barry Levinson (Rain Man 1988), chronicles a Jewish family that immigrates to the United States from Poland in pursuit of the American dream. Starring Leo Fuchs, Joan Plowright (Enchanted April 1992), Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth Perkins, and a 9-year-old Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings 2003). How does America change them?

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The Paper Wedding (1990)

Made before, but released after Green Card, this is the story of a university professor (Genevieve Bujold) who marries a Chilean dissident (Manuel Aranguiz) as a favor to her sister who is an immigration lawyer. Directed by Michel Brault (Mon Amie Max 1994), everything seems simple and straight forward, until the immigration investigation begins. Now they must live together. With English subtitles.

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Eat a Bowl of Tea (1989)

Wayne Wong (Joy Luck Club 1993) directed this film about a young ChineseAmerican soldier (Russell Wong) who returns from WWII and is bullied by his father (Victor Wong) into an arranged marriage with a Chinese girl (Cora Miao). Wong's film is about a search for ethnic identity.

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Coming to America (1988)

Eddie Murphy (Shrek 2001) and Arsenio Hall star in this hilarious film by director John Landis (Blues Brothers 2000). On his 21st birthday, the Prince of Zamunda is to marry a woman he has never met. Breaking with tradition, he chooses to come to America, in search of the love of his life.

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Stand and Deliver (1988)

This is the inspiring true story about an immigrant teacher working in his Hispanic community in L.A. To the credit of Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos) and his creative teaching, students in one of the country's toughest neighborhoods turn from gang life to become top algebra and calculus students. Escalante believed in them when no one else cared. Olmos (Selena 1997) was nominated for an Academy Award for his role, as was Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba 1987) for his supporting role as one of the students. Directed by Ramon Menendez.

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Born in East L.A. (1987)

Comedian Cheech Marin directed, wrote, and stars in this comedy about Rudy, who is caught in an INS sweep of illegal workers at a factory. Without any ID, Rudy is unable to convince authorities that he is American, and ends up deported to Mexico with no knowledge of Spanish and no idea how to get back home.

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Living on Tokyo Time (1987)

Ken (Ken Nakagawa) is shy and into rock & roll. Kyoko (Minako Ohashi) is beautiful and determined. Introduced by a mutual friend, Ken marries Kyoko, whose green card is expiring, so that she can remain in the U.S. And then the unexpected happens when he falls in love with her. Directed by Steven Okazaki (Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street 2000). Nominated for the 1987 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival.

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An American Tale (1986)

This animated musical directed by Don Bluth is the story of the Mouskowitz family - a family of Jewish mice living in Russia at the time of the revolution. They have dreams of America, the land with no cats where all the streets are paved with cheese. When the youngest becomes separated from his family, he learns life lessons of tolerance, survival, and the strength of the familial bond. With the voices of Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, and Christopher Plummer.

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And the Pursuit of Happiness (1986)

French cum American director, Louis Malle, makes this loving documentary, which parallels his own experience, about modern-day immigrants with big dreams who are contributing to America.

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Dim Sum : A Little Bit of Heart (1985)

Chinese immigrant, Mrs. Tam (Kim Chew), is told by a fortune-teller that this is the year she will die. She longs to return to China to pay her respects to her ancestors. She is also longing for her daughter, Geraldine (Laureen Chew), to marry. A sweet portrayal of this ChineseAmerican family in San Francisco. Another film from director Wayne Wang (Joy Luck Club 1993).

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Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Director Jim Jarmusch (Coffee and Cigarettes 2004) influenced the direction of American independent filmmakers with his unusual style in this film. Eva (Eszter Balint) is moving to the U.S. from Eastern Europe and informs her cousin, Willie (John Lurie), that she will be staying with him for ten days before going on to their aunt in Ohio. Willie, a small-time gambler, tells his friend, Eddie (Richard Edson), that she will cramp their style, but Eddie likes Eva. Willie introduces her to American TV and TV dinners and Eva proves to be surprisingly street savvy, herself.

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Moscow on the Hudson (1984)

Touring the U.S. with a band during the cold war, a Soviet saxophone player, played by Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting 1988, Good Morning, Vietnam 1987), defects to the U.S. while in Bloomingdale's. But adjusting to American life is more difficult than he imagines. Directed by Paul Mazursky (Harry and Tonto 1974).

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El Norte (1983)

The Guatemalan army discovers Mayan Indian peasants who have begun to organize, hoping to rise above their label of brazos fuertes or "strong arms" (manual laborers). The army massacres their families and destroys their village to give the new recruits no choice but to follow and obey. However, two teenage siblings survive and are determined to escape to the U.S. or El Norte. They make their way to L.A. - uneducated, illegal immigrants, alone.

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Sophie's Choice (1982)

Meryl Streep is breathtaking in her Oscar-winning role as Sophie, a PolishCatholic survivor of Auschwitz who makes her way to the U.S. after the war. Also with Kevin Klein (A Fish Called Wanda 1988) and Peter MacNicol. Directed by Alan J. Pakula (The Sterile Cuckoo 1969, Klute 1971), the son of a Polish immigrant.

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Hester Street (1975)

This film by director / writer, Joan Micklin Silver, is a fine portrayal of Jewish immigrants to New York in the late 19th century. The struggle with language, and the tension between assimilation and tradition are palpable and impossible for some relationships to survive. Based on Abraham Cahan's 1896 novella, Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto.

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The Godfather, Part II (1974)

All of the films in this Francis Ford Coppola (Academy Award, Best Director, 1975) trilogy surround the Corleone family. The ties between the family in New York and the family in Sicily are depicted in a way in this film, especially, that is likely felt on some level by all immigrant families in the U.S. Robert di Niro (Academy Award for this supporting character, 1975) portrays the young Vito and learned Italian in order to be as authentic as possible in the role.

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Nybyggarna [The New Land] (1972)

Director Jan Troell's sequel to Utvandrarna (1971).

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Utvandrarna [The Emigrants] (1971)

From Swedish director Jan Troell, comes a film that has been touted as one of the greatest Swedish films of our time - certainly one of the best depictions of the immigrant experience. Starring film history's legends, Max von Sydow (Pelle the Conqueror 1987) and Liv Ullman (Lost Horizon 1973). Ullman was nominated for an Oscar and won the Golden Globe for this role.

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Popi (1969)

Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine 2007) and Rita Moreno (West Side Story 1962) star in this comedy about a Puerto Rican widower, living in Harlem, who puts his children aboard a raft off of Florida's coast. Scheming for a better life for his family, Popi believes the cute "asylum-seekers from Cuba" will win hearts in America. Directed by Arthur Hiller (Love Story 1971).

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The Party (1968)

Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove 1964, Being There 1980) shines in this Blake Edwards (Honorary Award 2004) comedy, which has become a classic full of unconventional humor. Sellers portrays an Indian actor who is mistakenly invited to a party intended for Hollywood executives. The clash of cultures and Sellers's comedic talents are sure to give you more than a belly laugh or two!

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America, America (1963)

Written and directed by Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront 1954), this story begins around 1900 with a poor Greek in Turkey. A second-class citizen there, selling ice in the marketplace and enduring humiliation on a daily basis, he is determined to escape to America by way of Constantinople. Starring Stavros Topouzoglou and Vartan Damadian.

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West Side Story (1961)

Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins directed this Oscar-winning musical. It's a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story, or it was 40+ years ago when it was made. Rather than feuding families, however, the plot centers around two New York street gangs. Maria (Natalie Wood) is a Puerto Rican immigrant whose brother belongs to the Sharks, and Tony (Richard Beymer) is the American boy she loves, who is a former member of the Jets. Once a Jet, always a Jet?

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I Remember Mama (1948)

Barbara Bel Geddes portrays an aspiring writer and daughter of Norwegian immigrant parents, played by Irene Dunn and Edgar Bergan. A warm tale of a close-knit family and children who believe their Mama can do anything. Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Black & White Cinematography, Best Actress (Miss Dunn) and three Best Supporting Actress nominations, including for Miss Bel Geddes.

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My Girl Tisa (1948)

Overlooked because of the political climate when it was released, this film portrays the New York lower East Side society of the period. Boarding houses, looking for work, the constant fear of deportation, the anxiety over the citizenship test. German-born actress Lilli Palmer stars as Tisa and Sam Wanamaker (nominated for an Emmy for his 1978 role in Holocaust) is the attorney who helps her. Directed by Elliott Nugent.

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Music in My Heart (1940)

This old musical stars Rita Hayworth (Gilda, 1946) as the American beauty living in an immigrant neighborhood of New York with her kid sister, when she collides (literally) with Tony Martin, a penniless actor who is being deported. Full of plot twists and characters with complicated relationships, this film even has a lovesick monkey!

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The Immigrant (1917)

This is a classic for film students. Charlie Chaplin (Limelight 1952, The Great Dictator 1940) stars in this silent picture about his little tramp, traveling steerage to immigrate to the U.S. with the throngs who came at the beginning of the 1900s. He shows us what this felt like with the humor and poignancy only Chaplin possessed.

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