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Films to Celebrate NYC Immigrant Heritage Week

ihw 2018

Immigrant Heritage Week is a city-wide celebration that honors the experiences and contributions of immigrants in New York City established in 2004 and coordinated by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. The New York Public Library joins in on the celebration by featuring free events through the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. 
We are highlighting a selection of films available for streaming on Kanopy that explore the immigrant experience. Kanopy is an online video streaming service featuring thousands of independent, classic, and documentary films, and all you need to access these films is a valid NYPL card and PIN. Through these films, discover the fascinating journeys that each unique personal story tells, and find the experiences that also bring us together. For NYC Immigrant Heritage Week we have also created a list of nonfiction books and another list of fiction books. Do you have any other films to recommend? Please tell us in the comments!
Speacial thanks to Alexandra Gomez, Candice Walcott, and Yolande Shelton for collaborating on creating this World Languages list.

Beyond the border

Follows the classic immigrant experience with Marcelo Ayala, who leaves his family on a risky journey to the United States. We begin to understand his decision to leave Mexico with the insights of his brothers, who before him, have each made the same journey. 
2001 | 58 minutes | Supplied by Dos Vatos

Dollars and Dreams

Focuses on the pursuits and challenges of numerous West African immigrants as they confront the idea of the American Dream and the reality of the New York experience. The film creates a vibrant portrait of African achievement throughout the city, while exploring the complicated issues African immigrants face as they balance their deep connections to Africa and their enthusiastic commitments to America.
2007 | 58 minutes | Supplied by Documentary Educational Resources

Every Child is Born a Poet

Explores the life and work of Piri Thomas (b. 1928) the Afro-Cuban-Puerto Rican author of the classic autobiographical novel Down These Mean Streets (1967). The film traces Thomas' path from childhood to manhood in New York City's Spanish Harlem, El Barrio, from the 1930s through the 1960s; his parents' immigrant experience, home life during the Great Depression, his membership in barrio youth gangs, his struggle to come to terms with his mixed-racial identity, his travels as a teen-age merchant marine, his heroin addiction, his notorious armed robbery of a Greenwich Village nightclub, his six years spent in prison, and then his emergence as a writer.
2003 | 58 minutes | Supplied by Collective Eye Films

Foreign Letters

Ellie, a 12-year-old immigrant girl from Israel, is lonely and homesick. Life brightens when she meets Thuy, a Vietnamese refugee her age. Trust slowly builds as the two teach each other about life in America. Based on the filmmaker's own experience, Foreign Letters is a story about prejudice, poverty, shame, and the power of friendship to heal us.
2012 | 101 minutes | Supplied by Film Movement

The Immigrant Experience

Part of the series Shaping of the American Nation Collection
The hopes and conflicts of all immigrants are seen through the eyes of the boy Janek, and in a warm scene at the program's close, Janek the man looks at his dreams of a lifetime being realized through his grandchildren.
2000 | 30 minutes | Supplied by The Phoenix Learning Group

The Immigration Paradox

In an era of increased global mass migration what does it mean to be an American? In this conversational piece, filmmaker Lourdes Lee Vasquez unlocks additional never before seen footage filmed during her original 7-year journey. The Immigration Paradox - Encore delves into some of the ideological and historical precedents that have led up to now.
2014 | 74 minutes | Supplied by The Immigration Paradox Movie

The Italian Americans

Reveals the unique and distinctive qualities of one immigrant group's experience, and how these qualities, over time, have shaped and challenged America.
2015 | 219 minutes (4 parts) | Supplied by PBS

Our People, Our Traditions

Part of the series Finding Your Roots
Three celebrated Americans who share not only a Jewish heritage but also a history of perseverance in the face of withering opposition. Now woven into the fabric of the American experience the immigrant stories of our guests' ancestors provide an extraordinary testimony to this country's triumph over adversity.
2014 | 53 Minutes | supplied by PBS


In this deeply personal award-winning documentary that gives an insider view on the contemporary immigrant experience, divorce and family psychology, and the personal filmmaking process, filmmaker Alvin Tsang reflects on his family's migration from Hong Kong to Los Angeles in the early 1980s—fraught with betrayal from his parents' divorce, economic strife, and communication meltdown between parents and children.
2016 | 86 minutes | supplied by Hawkfinn Films

Saved by Deportation

Asher and Shifra Scharf, elderly Chasidic Polish Jews and former deportees, travel through Poland, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, revisiting their places of exile, and untangling the threads of time and memory to reconstruct the events of six decades past.
2006 | 81 minutes | supplied by LOGTV


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