Farmingville (2004) Poster


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Compelling, yet sad, commentary about society
anhedonia23 June 2004
A powerful documentary about the sudden influx of undocumented - or illegal, if you prefer - Mexican immigrants into Farmingville, N.Y., not too far from New York City.

Anti-immigration folks are bound to see this film as propaganda about immigrants, especially since the immigrants come off as well-behaved, respectful, occasionally funny, individuals, while their opponents do not.

Filmmakers Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini try their best to show both sides of the issue. But those who oppose the immigrants' presence - a group called Sachem Quality of Life (SQL) - can easily be seen as racists because they don't really seem to be able to articulate their views without turning shrill.

We see SQL people accusing immigrants of harassing young women, and accosting immigrants on the road and berating them in English (the immigrants don't speak the language). SQL also did itself no favors by aligning with some national anti-immigration groups and getting speakers from those groups to address a local "Day of Truth" conference. And it's in awfully poor taste when SQL members sing "God bless America" and seem to be gloating after Suffolk County legislators fail to override the county executive's veto of creating a hiring hall for the migrant workers.

So while we see the immigrants standing on street corners, working, organizing, cleaning and maintaining soccer fields, and their allies calling for more tolerance and a real solution to the problem, their opponents include a California woman who not only rants "illegal aliens...rob, rape and murder our innocent citizens," she also believes "once they (Hispanics) reconquer and control this government, which they have vowed to do...that if you're not a Latino, you will be expelled."

What is made absolutely clear in this film is there needs to be a workable solution to this problem, and not just a knee-jerk reaction. As a resident - a former cop and Marine - points out eloquently in a public meeting, he would do anything to better the life of his family and these immigrants "are children of God that are coming here for some help."

But a lack of understanding - on both sides - only raises the anger level and it results in two immigrants being physically assaulted and a Hispanic house being firebombed. There's also brief mention of a local woman who was killed by an immigrant drunken driver, but the film never makes it clear when he was part of this immigrant group profiled in the film.

I wish Sandoval and Tambini had spent more time with town residents Louise and Tom, who walk through their neighborhood raising concerns they have about the influx. Although Louise admits she has a "real problem with people here illegally," her concern is that rental homes are housing 20 and 30 migrants each and that's causing a huge problem. Tom complains about the sudden truck traffic in his neighborhood. You may not agree with their views, but they don't come off as nasty. The film doesn't say whether Tom and Louise are part of SQL. I didn't think they were, which is why I wanted to see more of them.

This film is a sad commentary about contemporary society. It's obvious these immigrants are integral to the economy, something most elected officials, especially on the national level, would be loath to admit. A local contractor says he put an ad for American workers "and it was a joke" what happened.

The depressing aspect is how an important human issue like this skewers people's perspectives and brings out the worst in them. When the Mexican immigrants get permission from the school board to use the soccer fields in exchange for mowing the grass, cleaning the fields, landscaping, fixing the fences etc., a resident wrote to the school board, "I find it distressing that these illegal immigrants are being permitted to play soccer side-by-side with our children."

Sadly, it's apparent we still have a long, long way to go in this country when it comes to race relations.
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Balanced Film Which Draws Attention To Serious Problems Faced by Day Laborers
bobafett1816 June 2004
After viewing the film and attending a panel discussion, I feel that this film's portrayal of the situation in Farmingville was an entirely fair one. Based on discussions with the audience, I feel confident in stating that the consensus from people empathetic to either side of the debate was that the film did present each argument fairly. The voices of Louise, Margaret and Eduardo were equally strong. Though some may feel the SQL was presented in a manner which depicts them as racist or zealous, comments made by Margaret at the panel discussion were entirely in line with those she voices in the film at even her most heated moments. As for the remarks made by protesters to day laborers, these moments of taunting, intimidation, and often outright ignorance DO occur and were not misconstrued by the filmmakers - I can assert authority on this claim because I have personally witnessed it. As a member of a neighboring town who could identify virtually every location in the film, I am very aware of the attitude towards day laborers in this section of Long Island. Granted, this is probably not representative of the actions and feelings of all who oppose undocumented laborers, but the scenes in the film by no means took me by surprise.

In addition, the filmmakers did not attempt to take advantage of the emotional responses that were certain to arise with the description of the brutal beatings which were the inspiration for this film. The strong presence of this event in 'Farmingville' reflects the fact that the film was made in direct response to this event. The purpose of Mr. Sandoval and Ms. Tambini was to draw attention to the dangers faced by daily by laborers, as epitomized in the beatings. As an unfortunate bolstering of this point, near the time of completion of the film, a firebombing was carried out by four local youths at the home of Latino workers in Farmingville. The presence of groups such as SQL, which refuse even to acknowledge that this act was a firebombing, though it has been called that by police, has long been an inhibition to finding practical solutions - namely, safe housing and protection of worker and civil rights for the day laborers who are the backbone of our economy. The SQL insists that there are omnipresent threats posed by the presence of workers, though few seem to actually have any foundation. I could say more, but in the interest of space I will stop here, as I only set out to clarify some possible misconstruances and complaints about the documentary.

This is an important film for all members of the Long Island community and hopefully will help raise awareness and support for immigrant workers.
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Great for a new outlook
shannonlmcknight20 November 2006
Unlike the person that commented before me, I thought that this movie was incredibly insightful and truthfully explained the side of the debate that is typically less thought of in the United States. The question of their legality does play a part in the movie, however, this movie doesn't need to focus on their illegal status in order to portray a lesser-known thought. We, as people, typically think that our opinion alone is the correct one and rarely think of what it would be like to walk in the shoes of another. Its a nice perspective to analyze and to try to understand. As a white woman, I never realized what truly happened with immigrants in the United States, but seeing this movie, it helped to show what the "American Dream" is like for people that come to truly have a better life.

The movie may be bias, but its good for us to see what its like for someone else and to see what they experience, what discrimination they go through, what hardship they struggle though, etc.

I truly recommend this movie for anyone looking to get a new perspective.
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This is a Film used by BOTH SIDES of the immigration debate
bcheigh6 October 2006
Some of the comments complain that the film is biased for the pro-immigrant side. I think the reaction from those commentators show that the film brings out emotions of all sides, and thus it is a successful documentary for discussion.

I personally know that this documentary was shown by an extreme anti-immigration group in Massachusetts as an educational piece for their group. I showed this documentary to my very much pro-immigrant community of friends and colleagues.

The success of the film (or failure, if you prefer) lies in the fact that both sides do respond to it strongly. Perhaps it reveals that America remains a polarized society, and that we are letting the extremists grab the mike rather than discussing the issue and identifying a pragmatic solution. The opportunism for anger is rampant, particularly on the anti-immigrant side.

I recommend this movie, and hope that viewers realize that division and extremism will not accomplish real solutions...only harden untenable positions.
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Progagandizes and Important Issue
baho220 January 2004
I don't mind a documentary having a point of view but one thing that really angers me is when the filmmakers pretend they are being unbiased and then clearly make a one-sided movie. Farmingville is all about a battle between residents of the Long Island town (15,000 pop.) and a sudden influx of 1500 mostly illegal Mexican immigrant men. One of the two pivotal events of the film was the attempted murder of two Mexicans by town citizens. (The actual murder of a young mother by a drunk immigrant was barely mentioned.)

I don't think I'm a bigot. (Who knows for sure?) I believe the immigration problem is an extraordinarily challenging one that needs to be part of public debate. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the way to solve the problem is to produce documentaries that make most of the white residents out to be racist idiots and a group of 1500 Mexican men out to be saints. If I were to believe this film, the Farmingville Mexicans were the most respectful and well-behaved group of men in American history-of any race. These guys make the Amish look like hell-raisers, their sole crime apparently being their custom of gathering on corners to find work and a lack of affordable housing. Any other negatives we hear are accusations and innuendo from the whites, which come off as paranoid rants. These oppressed men just want to work hard, play soccer and be left alone.

When I asked one of the directors, Catherine Tambini, about this, she said that it was difficult to get any bad behavior from the men on film. But apparently the stupid white folks were more than willing to immortalize their ignorance. Most of the Anglo citizens of Farmingville that were featured were mean-spirited, ignorant human beings. The sole thoughtful and articulate exception was a legislator that was a champion of the Latino community. Honestly, this film was so biased that I felt like I was watching Reefer Madness. But then, it was funded in part by Latino organizations.

Mexican immigration is a major issue for our country, and it's good to see film-makers tackling the problem. Farmingville is a symptom of a bankrupt immigration policy-both legislative and executive. Fear and self-interest brought out the worst in many people of Farmingville. It's a sad chapter in American history. But let's not ignite the debate by deifying immigrants or vilifying whites. That's not a documentary. That's propaganda.
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Spend more than 10 minutes in Farmingville for a different view.
chaospearl6 April 2008
I keep re-reading the review from the person who talks about the stench of urine from public buildings and the hundreds of people sleeping on every bit of grass. Now that's really weird because you see, I LIVE in Farmingville and I've never seen anything like that. I've lived here for 25 years. There's no urine and I've never once, not one time in my entire life, seen anybody sleeping on the grass. If you drive down Horseblock Road early in the morning -- between 4am and 6am -- you will definitely see large crowds of Hispanic men hanging around the shop fronts and sitting on the curbs. By 5:30 the majority of them have been picked up by various trucks and the others know that there won't be any work today, so they go home. They certainly don't stretch out on the sidewalk for a cat nap. LOL. I do agree that there are problems in Farmingville due to the immigrant population, but those problems have more to do with taxes and health care and the fact that none of these people pay for the benefits that our town provides them with. To say that the numbers of illegals "crowding the streets" is even noticeable to the townspeople is not just a joke, it's an outright idiocy. Trust me. I didn't just cruise around the most downtrodden areas of Farmingville for a few minutes -- I wake up every day here and go about my life here, and I'll let you know if I ever see anyone asleep on the grass.
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"Farmingville" misses key issues.
Todd34724 September 2005
The documentary seems to miss the whole issue of illegal aliens in this country. Instead, it focuses on racial tensions and demonizes local citizens, while making illegal aliens out to be hardworking saints who are just looking for a piece of the American Dream. It is a completely biased film that tries to distort the real issue - unchecked, massive, illegal immigration that is threatening to destroy this country.

When I checked "Farmingville" out of the local library, I hoped for a look at both sides of the issue. I wanted to see the filmmakers address the issue of the poor Latinos who wanted to work hard, prosper, and make a better life for themselves. I also wanted it to explore the strain that they place on the economy and the local community.

Sure, these guys were born into a poor country. No one is arguing that they would have the same opportunities at home. But, they broke the law to come here. There was very little footage devoted to the fact that the illegal aliens do not respect the law. And, why would we assume that they would be willing to obey any other law? They do not pay taxes after all. They do not pay their health care bills. We do. They certainly do not respect zoning ordinances because they pack at least 25 people in a house.

Again, it was a biased film. The issues mentioned above were covered very briefly, if at all. Instead, the documentary skirted those issues by pointing the finger at the locals, many of whom did not want the illegals in their town. The film skirts some very tough issues by labeling the locals as racists to discredit their arguments. Time and time again, the locals are painted as intolerant hicks, while the illegals are shown in the best possible light. Why didn't they spend any time on the death of a local woman at the hands of an illegal alien drunk driver? Instead, they focused an inordinate amount of the film on an incident where two illegals were beaten.

This movie could have been one of the all time great documentaries if it had showed both sides of the issue. As a documentary, the film was weak. The film as propaganda was fantastic. The filmmakers did a great job in telling a story, but their view was completely one-sided and biased. They tried to discredit some very valid points made by the locals by labeling them as racists. I would recommend that the reader see this film, however, you should definitely keep in mind that there is a lot more to the issue that the filmmakers do not want you to see.
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What passes for a documentary in today's film industry.
sifujon15 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This film is a prime example of what passes as a documentary film. In the tradition of Michael Moore, the film makers draw a conclusion and then build a film to support it, while appearing to air both sides of the issue. I must admit, they do a good job.

The trouble with films like these is that while they DO show both sides of the issue, they don't do it in a balanced way. All the Sachem Quality of Life (SQL) members are shown at their worst, and the illegal - or if you prefer undocumented - workers are portrayed as just short of sainthood. Hard working, civic minded, polite.

The truth is some are good and some are bad. But you would not get this from this film. The spend little time addressing the SQL concerns of neighborhood deterioration. Overcrowded poorly maintained houses, public drinking and urination, and lewd comments are not figments of their imaginations. Most of these workers will be hired early in the A.M. If they are not picked then, there is little chance of working that day. So many of them get some beer and hang out for the day. That is when you see the bad behavior. But the film ignores this facet of life.

As for the hiring halls, the objection is more the use of public funds to promote illegal activity. Would anyone support municipal crack houses to get addicts and dealers off the streets? After all, they contribute to the economy also.

Illegal immigration is a complex issue, but films like these only polarize the issue. Anyone who argues against it is almost racist by definition. So the film ultimately hinders any free exchange of ideas. Subtle propaganda like this is much more dangerous than the overt kind.
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Good Doc
danielbloome25 January 2015
Farmingville is a good documentary that seems to be very fair and truthful in how it tells the story of two Mexican day labourers (illegal immigrant workers) who were victims of assault and attempted murder, and the town that they lived in, the titular Farmingville in New York state.

The story could be told in a more interesting way, particularly some of the visual elements of the film and stock footage (though I'm sure they just used whatever they had available to them) but it does a great job when it comes to presenting the facts and opinions of those involved. They don't focus too much on one side of the story and in fact by doing so they end up making a great statement about how everyone needs to step outside their own shoes and consider how things are seen by people on the other side of the fence.
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grm00910 July 2006
I've seen this movie, and it's very well-made, very persuasive, and it is 100% propaganda. It shows the Hispanic people as being soft-spoken and hard-working and those who oppose their presence as loud-mouthed bigots. Both of these have little basis in truth. I believed this movie until I actually visited Farmingville myself. The movie leaves out the many, many negative effects of having an enormous influx of Latin Americans come to a small community. The movie neatly ignores the economic effect on the working poor Americans who now have to compete with people who can afford to work for a bit less. The movie does not show the thousands of Mexicans who line the streets and roads every day waiting for a day of work. This movie does not show the stench of urine that rises from the doorways of public buildings these people use as latrines, nor does it show the trash thrown from cars and apartment windows. It doesn't show the hundreds of people lying asleep on every bit of grass on every bit of public property in Farmingville every week day. It does not tell about the rise of violent crime on Long Island that is directly attributable to these people. The movie implies that a significant number of these people are here legally. That is false; virtually all of them are here illegally and their numbers are growing. The movie does not show the fact that women are generally subservient in this community. The movie ignores the fact that these folks refuse to pay taxes on their income,purchase mandatory driver's insurance, or even have legal licenses and auto registrations. It does not show the economic advantage these people have over the local working population because of their willingness to live in large numbers in small spaces, and because they live and work under the IRS's radar. The movie does not show that this is a mostly male population many of whom who drink late into the night. It is inaccurate to say that the movie attempts to be objective. One has to come here and see the real Farmingville in order to make a judgment about this movie. The real Farmingville has brought "offshore" labor to an already poor town with devastating effect.
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A Good, but Slightly Polarized View of the Real Farmingville
ciprians30 July 2007
First, let it be said that Sachem School District does not have any association with Sachem Quality of Life. Many students, faculty, and staff would rather SQL remove Sachem from its name altogether.

That being said, Tambini and Sandoval do a good job in giving a general overlook of the situation. They portray the immigrants, the people who oppose them, and people who support the immigrants. However, what is missing is the middle ground. Not necessarily the indifferent, but rather the ones who, like me, do not oppose the presence of immigrants in our town, but who would also like them to be legalized as well.

I have no problem with immigrants. They are generally nice and are good in heart. They are here mostly to work for their families back in their home countries. I've played soccer with them at those very same fields in the film.

But that is what the film lacks, however. It is the middle-ground. There is too much focus on the extremes, and not enough on the majority. I would have liked Tambini and Sandoval to visit the Sachem High School East campus in Farmingville (which they have done), but rather to get students opinions in the documentary as well.

This film is good, but less emphasis on the two "warring" parties, if you will, and a little more on the normal residents of the town would have made the film better.
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Indeed one sided
nickacb17 December 2007
I recently saw this film and i think is one sided in favor of the illegal point of view. However, I think people in the SQL while having some honest concerns, they manage to discredit themselves by associating their cause with racist and ignorant individuals. I really couldn't believe when I heard some of them talking about "la reconquista" as a real and organized political movement, supported not only by our government, I'm from Mexico, but also by the US government, that's truly insane and whoever believes is falling for the worst conspiracy theory ever. Also, I couldn't believe the stupid idea of a conspiracy to expelled out of the U.S. all not latino speakers.

As I said before I'm from Mexico and I lived and worked for a while in Chicago and got to knew the most helpful and nice white American people but also the most racist and insane. I really do believe immigrants are mostly hard working people and give benefits to the community, but also some of them are just plain selfish and mean, like everywhere else.

I agree that the film fail to include the opinion of those residents who do not see the problem in black and white, who could really point out the real and actual behavior that the immigrants should avoid and correct, free of racist insanity.
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