Independent Lens

The New Americans (29 Mar. 2004)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary
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The New Americans follows four years in the lives of a diverse group of contemporary immigrants and refugees as they journey to start new lives in America. The detailed portraits--woven ... See full summary »

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Title: The New Americans (29 Mar 2004)

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Episode credited cast:
Ismail Bashey ...
Himself - Host
Herself - Host


The New Americans follows four years in the lives of a diverse group of contemporary immigrants and refugees as they journey to start new lives in America. The detailed portraits--woven together in the seven-hour miniseries-- present a kaleidoscopic picture of immigrant life and a personal view of the new America. We follow an Indian couple to Silicon Valley through the dot-com boom and bust. A Mexican meatpacker struggles to reunite his family in rural Kansas. Two families of Nigerian refugees (including the sister of slain Ogoni activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa) escape government persecution. Two Los Angeles Dodgers prospects follow their big dreams of escaping the barrios of the Dominican Republic. A Palestinian woman who marries into a new life in Chicago only to discover in the wake of September 11, she cannot leave behind the pain of her homeland's conflict. Written by Kartemquin Films

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29 March 2004 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

Another world
31 October 2004 | by (Saffron Walden, UK) – See all my reviews

What does it mean to uproot yourself from your home and family, and travel across the world to work in another country? If you are a well-traveled professional with a job to go to, probably not that much; but if you come from an under-privileged background, there are three factors to deal with that the affluent traveling westerner might not have to face: culture shock, limited prospects and the sense that in leaving, one might never go back. 'The New Americans' is a fascinating look at the lives of a disparate collection of immigrants to the United States; the fact that America is a country of immigrants adds to the resonance, in that the lives of these people are the continuation of the central story of the country, not a diversionary subplot. There's a lot of content here, but a number of things stand out. First, the culture shock is perhaps less than one might expect: in America, as everywhere else, you work to pay the rent, young families have children, etc., etc.: the pattern of life is essentially the same. Even Israel, a Nigerian refugee, who in the first episode announces that he is keen to discover what a "hamburger" is, is soon commenting that life in America offers no surprises. Indeed, life in America does not necessarily make these immigrants happier, in spite of their universally increased affluence (measured in terms of dollars): the local cost, and uncertainty, of living, remains high. For those prepared to buy into the American dream, there is a chance of a life that may be denied elsewhere: for someone who would simply like to do interesting work, in reasonable conditions, and live without worry, life is no easier than it is at home. The other thing we see is how hard it is for families to survive under economic duress: in some ways, this is a theme that extends beyond immigrants, though here it recurs due to the precarious nature of most of the immigrants positions. One also sees, in almost every family, sexism from the husbands and a tendency to indulge in infantile emotionalism from their wives, which is a bit depressing. This program is thus a fascinating insight into so much of modern life; but for all the hardship, no-one goes back. Well worth watching.

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