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Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip (2011)

Documentary about new United States immigrants spanning all fifty states.

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Documentary about new United States immigrants spanning all fifty states.

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2011 (USA)  »

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Cidadão Americano: Viagem Pelos 50 Estados  »

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"This is now officially your country"
25 August 2011 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

This documentary by Alexandra Pelosi, the House speaker's daughter, is a paean to America and what makes it special.

That may sound saccharine, and this movie definitely idealizes the United States. However, it's also a powerful reminder of just what has made this country unique in the long and often painful course of human history.

Though native-born Americans may complain a lot (as one Slovenian émigré marvels), immigrants scattered across the 50 states are seen here to be able to focus on the larger picture -- from big privileges like freedom of movement and expression sans worry about consequences -- "I can be whatever I want to be" -- to more mundane stuff like being able to get water from a tap; call 911 for help, enjoy access to customer service, and have traffic stop for school buses.

"This country will accept you no matter where you're from," says a Jordanian man. A man from Albania who has grown up eating mostly cornbread marvels at the amazing food choices. An Indonesian woman of extremely short stature exults in the acceptance of disabilities -- as she gets into a van specially equipped to enable her to reach the gas pedal.

"Is there any other country where is it enshrined in the Constitution you have a right to be happy?" asks a Pakistani woman.

And it's not just what immigrants can get from us that motivates them. A Mexican man notes that newcomers wish to produce for the United States -- and "not become criminals." A man from India notes: "I'm contributing my skills, my talents -- America needs me!"

The documentary is pollyannish in that it focuses on practically nothing that is wrong with the United States. In addition, it makes no mention of the fact that immigrants who make it to these shores must have had some sort of positive "springboard effect" from their native lands in order to get here at all.

Still, the subject of this film bears remembering again and again. One can never underestimate the value of what we stand for.


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