After acknowledging his own immigrant background, Malle, tries to present the range of immigrant experiences in the US during the 1980's. In an attempt to be comprehensive, the film ... See full summary »
After acknowledging his own immigrant background, Malle, tries to present the range of immigrant experiences in the US during the 1980's. In an attempt to be comprehensive, the film includes interviews with migrant workers and illegal entrants along the Mexican border, conversations with an enterprising Indian motel owner, coverage of industrious African and Asian families in the cities, an extensive interview with the first Costa Rican astronaut, visits with Cuban exiles in Miami, several conversations with West Indian poet Derek Walcott, an extended portrait of the deposed Nicaraguan General Samoza (the surviving brother of Anastasio Somoza Debayle) and his extended family. The film finishes with a brief visit to the Russian Jewish community in Brooklyn, NY to tie in with the centenary of the Statue of Liberty. Written by
In the film "...In The Pursuit of Happiness" renown director Louis Malle takes a look at life as an immigrant in America- from the perspective of an outsider. It focuses on the rather paradoxical relationship that exists between immigrants and America(ns). How immigrants are an integral and important part of the country's prosperity- it is a "Nation of Immigrants", for God's sake (pun intended), lest we forget- yet still contains factions that both fear and resent the presence of new immigrants (particularly if you are latino, these days).
These immigrants are doctors, astronauts, restaurateurs, labourers and even work on top secret government programs. Throughout the film Malle interviews a number of new immigrants and their families- all of whom make deeply intuitive observations and commentaries- discussing why they have come to America from their various places of origin. These people have been lured to America for various reasons- coming from various ethnic and national backgrounds- from all over the world. Some are nobodies seeking to establish themselves and "become someone", while others were quite established in their homeland, but left to seek a new start or just to blend in (ie. General Samoza- former Dictator of Nicaragua- who now passes his time watching Mexican Soaps while his children run a series of restaurants).
All of the immigrants interviewed throughout the film possess a sense of hope- though this hope manifests itself in various ways- whether it be ambition, oppourtunity, freedom of choice, a chance to escape oppression or even to live a life like their favourite American TV show. This first section of the film documents what it is like for these new immigrants when they come to a new land, become indoctrinated into America's dumbed down materialistic corporate culture and then break free from this; creating their own cultural niches- making their own way and doing their own thing in the land of oppourtunity.
The film also focuses, though, on the challenges that immigrants face when coming up against the aforementioned great American paradox. That of the white ruling class and their attempt to balance being a nation of immigrants while not losing touch with the inherently American trait of fearing "the other". This is spurred on by the type of people that want to keep in touch with the "Founding fathers"- like the bigot that Malle interviews in the film- although these tensions also manifest themselves when different immigrant communities are pitted against one another (ie like the Blacks vs Vietnamese); or when facing racial stereotypes from across the spectrum. These are not the only challenges they face though, they also suffer from a homesickness as they are disconnected from their culture and relatives; feel the affects of assimilation and loss of communal living (replaced by the American brand of radical individualism); face the challenge of passing their culture and values onto their children; and, of course, deal with issues that come with the language barrier.
Overall Malle presents a fair and balanced picture of the great paradox that exists between America and it's Immigrants- from the perspective that only an outsider (ie transplanted European) could bring. It is both interesting, informative and nicely shot (for the most part interviewer is off camera, with interviewees looking right into the camera- reminiscent of some early Peter Greenaway docs and Errol Morris' infamous use of the interotron). In light of recent anti-immigrant sentiment that has been exposed in southern states like Arizona, this documentary is possibly more relevant now than it has ever been. Highly recommended. 8 out 10.
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