Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Problem With Apu: Racial Stereotyping and The Simpsons



Comedian Hari Kondabolu, the creator and star of the feature-length documentary The Problem with Apu, confronts his long standing “nemesis” Apu Nahasapeemapetilon – better known as the Indian convenience store owner on The Simpsons. Through this comedic cultural exposé, Kondabolu questions how this controversial caricature was created, burrowed its way into the hearts and minds of Americans and continues to exist – intact – twenty-eight years later.

The Problem with Apu premieres on tonight at 10 p.m. ET/PT on TruTV.

The Hollywood Review has a review of The Problem with Apu.  Here is a part of the review:

"If nothing else, truTV's new documentary The Problem with Apu, written by and starring comic Hari Kondabolu, has probably quashed any desire to bring up caveats in my hypothetical response. A brisk discourse on hegemony and representational inequality, The Problem with Apu lays out its thesis against the character's acceptability in 2017 (to say nothing of 1989) with such clarity it's hard to imagine it generating an adversarial response more cogent than that hoary classic "It's a joke, stop taking it so seriously," which is no response at all.

The problem with The Problem with Apu is that, at 49 minutes, it's half a film. Directed by Michael Melamedoff, The Problem with Apu makes its primary case, has a couple of talking heads including Kondabolu admit they aren't sure what can or should be done, and ends abruptly and frustratingly.

That case can be summed up simply: Although representation of South Asian actors and characters has increased and improved on television and in movies in recent years, it's still relatively minuscule and when The Simpsons premiered, South Asian characters were basically nonexistent. So for the one prominent South Asian character on TV to be a frequently deceitful convenience store proprietor with a cartoonish Indian accent voiced by a white guy? That's bad. It's bad for a generation of South Asian children growing up and seeing only that one representation of their culture and having fellow kids judge them based upon it. It's bad for the older generation that had their immigrant experience represented in only this one way on TV for millions or maybe even billions of viewers. It's just bad."


November 19, 2017 in Books, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

This News Anchor Just Broke A Major Barrier For Afro-Latina Journalists

Monday, November 6, 2017

Shameless and Immigration Raids as Comedic Foils in the Trump Era



For you pop culture watchers, last night was the season premiere of the Showtime show "Shameless," which is in fact shameless.  Immigration -- and Immigration and Customs Enforcement --  featured prominently in the opening episode.  First, there is a raid at the restaurant where Fiona works with the cooks and dishwashers fleeing the workplace.  Later, one of the main characters, the ever-popular "V" attempts to get her bar back from Svetlana, an immigrant from Russia, by having her arrested by telling ICE officers that the bar owner is the ringleader of a Russian human-trafficking and prostitution ring.  Such serious allegations were the only thing that got ICE's attention.  The next thing you know, ICE raids the bar.  V feels triumphant and Svetlana faces likely removal from the United States.  


November 6, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Special Casablanca Exhibit at the International Museum of World War II

Sunday, November 5, 2017

An Immigrant Success Story: In Cambodia Town, a community moves from survival to success


A nice counter-story to those being told by President Trump about immigrants, the Los Angeles Times has an insightful story about a settlement of Cambodian refugees in Southern California.  Many of the refugees fled the infamous “killing fields,” the five-year campaign of terror and genocide in the 1970s that left nearly 2 million Cambodians dead.

About 50,000 people of Cambodian descent live in Long Beach (not far from Los Angeles), the largest diaspora of Cambodian people outside of that country.  In 2007, city leaders dubbed the 1.2-mile stretch of Anaheim Street where many of them settled "Cambodia Town."

The story reports on the ups-and-downs of refugees adapting to a new land after fleeing horrendous violence in their homeland.  That adaptation is not always smooth.




November 5, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, November 3, 2017

At the Movies: 10 Must-See Immigration Related Movies

Buzzfeed has this top 10 list of movies that offer important insights on immigration.


Number 1 is Coming to America with Eddie Murphy.  A young Eddie Murphy plays Akeem Joffer, a crown prince from the fictional African country of Zamunda. Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Samuel L. Jackson also appear in this comedy classic.


2. In America


3. The Kite Runner


4. Babel


5. Crash

Set over a 36-hour period in Los Angeles, this is another multi-narrative film with an even larger ensemble cast. One of the characters featured is immigrant shop owner Farhad, portrayed by Shaun Toub, who also appears in The Kite Runner (#3). Crash won Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing at the Oscars in 2006. 

6. House of Sand and Fog     
7. The Visitor
A professor finds an undocumented immigrant couple living in his New York City apartment and decides to let them stay. Richard Jenkins was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009 for his role as the professor, Walter.
This is a wonderful film showing how a university professor befriends undocumented immigrants and learns about the modern U.S. immigration detention and removal system. 
8. Entre Nos
Originally setting out to reunite her family, a Colombian immigrant attempts to survive in New York City with her two children.
 9. Lost Boys of Sudan
A feature-length documentary film about the journey of two young Sudanese refugees as they flee civil war and adjust to American culture.
10. The Godfather: Part II
One of the greatest films ever made is anchored by the immigration story of the young Vito Corleone. In a series of flashbacks, we see Vito fleeing Sicily as a kid, arriving at Ellis Island, struggling as a new immigrant, and establishing the Corleone family. This cinematic masterpiece was nominated for 11 Oscars, and won 6 at the ceremony in 1975, including Best Supporting Actor for Robert De Niro's portrayal of Young Vito Corleone.
 One of the greatest films ever made is anchored by the immigration story of the young Vito Corleone. In a series of flashbacks, we see Vito fleeing Sicily as a kid, arriving at Ellis Island, struggling as a new immigrant, and establishing the Corleone family. This cinematic masterpiece was nominated for 11 Oscars, and won 6 at the ceremony in 1975, including Best Supporting Actor for Robert De Niro's portrayal of Young Vito Corleone.

November 3, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Latinos (Over) Portrayed as Criminals on Television, Study Finds


Courtesy of CBS

Hollywood Reporter reports that Define American, the immigration nonprofit founded by Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, has released its first-ever media reference guide for writers, directors and producers.

Immigrants and Immigration: A Guide for Entertainment Professionals is a 19-page brief that defines key terms (“blanket waiver,” “mixed-status family”) and breaks down current key issues in immigration law, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the U visa for victims of violent crimes.

In addition to the guide, Define American has released a scorecard on the state of immigration representation on television, taken from The Opportunity Agenda’s study of 40 popular broadcast, cable and streaming shows that aired between April 2014 and June 2016. That report found that immigrants were underrepresented with just 6 percent of roles in the sampling (while comprising 17 percent of the U.S. population). However, they are overrepresented as criminals, with half of Latino and a quarter of Middle Eastern immigrant characters shown engaging in criminal activity. In real life, U.S. census and American Community Survey data has found that immigrant males between the ages of 18 and 39 are approximately half as likely to be incarcerated as their native-born counterparts.



November 1, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

At the Movies: The Foreigner (2017)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Now Streaming: Alias Grace

The Handmaiden's Tale wasn't Margaret Atwood's only novel. Netflix has just released a miniseries based on another of Atwood's works: Alias Grace. Here's the trailer:

Alias Grace tells the story of Grace Marks, "a 19th-century Irish immigrant and servant who became a celebrity 'murderess' in Toronto." The story confronts 19th century issues of "anti-immigrant sentiment, abortion and class warfare" -- things that seem scarily modern today. Indeed, the writer who adapated Atwood's novel for the small screen wrote of the lead character's "harsh crossing from Ireland with recent migrant crises in mind."

Atwood herself sees the work as a cautionary tale: “We are at a moment in history when some parts of North America are trying to turn the clock back, and if they want to turn it back, what do they want to turn it back to?”


October 28, 2017 in Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

NYT Mini Documentary: Training Your (Overseas) Replacement

In the past few years, there has been a lot of coverage of American workers being asked to train the foreign workers taking over their jobs. Remember Disney?

This NYT documentary is a little different. It's about an entire plant moving overseas and the American workers being asked to train the workers at the new Mexico plant.

As such, it's not as strictly immprof-y as the Disney H1B tale. Nevertheless, it's worth watching the 14 minute film. It manages to capture the same conflicts (should I train my replacement and get paid? Or would doing so make me complicit in an immoral endeavor?) with real emotional impact.


October 25, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Breitbart’s False and Inflammatory Claim about Tragic Wine Country Fires


ImmigrationProf reported last week on the efforts by Breitbart and other conservative blogs to pin the devastating Wine Country fires on undocumented immigrants.  As authorities continued to investigate the cause of Northern California’s deadly wildfires this week, they refuted what they described as false claims started by the conservative website Breitbart about their investigation.

A Breitbart article on Oct. 17, 2017 said Jesus Fabian Gonzalez, 29, "was arrested on suspicion of arson in (the) Wine Country fires that have killed at least 40 residents."

Sonoma County sheriff's officials tell a much different story and have called the Breitbart report "completely false." 

Even so, the article quickly spread across right-wing media outlets, including InfoWars and the Drudge Report, which shared Breitbart's unsubstantiated claims -- as detailed by BuzzFeed News.

Politifact California's verdict:

A Cal Fire spokesman said the agency has not identified an arson suspect nor has it determined whether arson was the cause of the deadly fires.

Sonoma County sheriff’s officials have pointed to Breitbart for fueling false rumors about their investigation.

At this point, there’s been no suspect identified and no arrests made tied to these deadly fires, contrary to the website’s inaccurate and irresponsible claim.

We rate Breitbart’s claim False.

FALSE – The statement is not accurate.



Breitbart's blaming of the fires on undocumented immigrants reminds me of the scene from the classic movie Casablanca with the famous line "Round up the usual Suspects."


October 24, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 23, 2017

At the Movies: Immigrant Prisons • BRAVE NEW FILMS

Each year, the U.S. government locks up roughly 440,000 immigrants in over 200 immigration detention centers. In the new short documentary Immigrant PrisonsBrave New Films explores conditions inside these prisons and reveals substandard medical care, widespread physical and sexual abuse and virtual slave labor working conditions. The film shows how major corporations are profiting off the misery of immigrants and the ways in which grassroots activists are fighting back.


For more background on the film and issue of immigrant detention, see this blog post by filmmaker Robert Greenwald, founder and president of Brave New Films: Immigrant Prisons — 440,000 Locked Up Each Year, Billions In Profit

October 23, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Celebrating Selena


Today, Google premiered their first-ever Selena Quintanilla Google Doodle, an animated singing cartoon of the late Mexican-American singer designed to celebrate the life and legacy of one of Latin music's most formidable stars. October 17, 1989 was the day of Quintanilla's first studio album release, Selena; one that would lead to five more albums, the last of which would be released posthumously and become her first No.1 on the Billboard 200. 





October 17, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 16, 2017

TV dramas and sitcoms are suddenly all about immigration


Travis M. Andrews of the Washington Post writes about President Trump's impact on popular culture. 

A number of television shows revolving around immigration began cropping up as Donald Trump rose to the presidency. Since Trump took office, his administration has ramped up deportations and cracked down on illegal immigration.

Popular shows such as “Superstore,” “Jane the Virgin” and Fresh Off the Boat” recently tackled stories about undocumented immigrants. And several networks announced upcoming new shows focused on immigration.

CBS announced “In the Country We Love,” a drama about a corporate attorney who begins taking on cases for undocumented immigrants. And the CW is developing “Casa,” which focuses on six Latino siblings who struggle when their parents are deported.

The trend also extends to three reboots of favorite television programs that spent years — in one case decades — off the air and never discussed immigration in their original runs.

Norman Lear’s popular sitcom “One Day at a Time,” featuring Mackenzie Phillips, Valerie Bertinelli and Bonnie Franklin, followed a divorced mom as she struggled to raise two teenage daughters on her own. It was a bold show when it premiered in 1975, since television programs centering on a single mother were sill a rarity.

Lear updated it for the reboot, which landed on Netflix in January, to reflect modern America. Like the “Party of Five” reboot, it swapped its white family for a Latino one, specifically the Cuban-American Alvarezes. See the trailer above.  The main character is still a single mother, who lives with her two children. But now she’s joined by her mother, who emigrated from Cuba.

One of the main plotlines running through the 13 new episodes focuses on an undocumented immigrant one of the children befriends. The  family tries to do the right thing, but they’re not sure what that is. Rather than offer an easy, digestible solution, though, the characters — all Cuban — argue about American policies surrounding immigration. Not what most would expect from a sitcom.

Lear often injected his shows with progressive ideals, so his focus on immigration shouldn’t be surprising. Especially given how outspoken he was about the issue throughout the presidential campaign.



October 16, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

When Adoption is Kidnapping


Check out this heartbreaking story from CNN -- Kids for Sale. It follows the story of a young Ugandan girl adopted by a family in the United States. The U.S. family was told that their new daughter was an orphan. She wasn't. She came from a loving home, with a mother who missed her deeply.

It was, as CNN alleges, a "trafficking scheme" affecting "multiple families."

Ugandan parents were told that their children would have "a great educational opportunity," "would one day return," and would remain part of their lives.

Instead, kids were "placed into orphanages even though they aren't orphans, and sold for as much as $15,000 each to unsuspecting American families."

The adoptive family in the U.S. was horrified that the child they'd welcomed wasn't an orphan but had been "made an orphan." Ultimately, they were able to reunite the daughter who can come to them with her birth mother in Uganda.


October 15, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Born Stateless

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 11.05.31 AM

Check out this fabulous teaching resource courtesy of the BBC. It's a mini documentary (3:06): Born Stateless.

The film introduces us to Maha Mamo. Her parents are both Syrian, but their marriage was not officially recognized because it was a mixed-marriage: Her mom is Muslim and her dad is Christian. Because of this lack of recognition of the underlying marriage, Maha and her siblings are not considered Syrian by virtue of their parentage.

Maha herself was born in Lebanon. But Lebanon does not follow jus soli. Because her parents were Syrian, Maha could not be Lebanese.

Maha and her siblings sought a new home. They found an unexpected one, Brazil.

This film is 3 minutes well spent. It's a great addition to classroom discussion about jus soli, jus sanguinis, and naturalization (with a side of refugee status).


October 3, 2017 in Film & Television, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

At the Movies: Constructing the Terrorist Threat


Constructing the Terrorist Threat

Deepa Kumar, one of the nation’s foremost scholars on Islamophobia, looks at how Muslims have become the predominant face of terror in U.S. news and entertainment media -- even though terror attacks by white extremists have far outnumbered attacks by Muslim Americans since 9/11.

Arguing that racialized threats have long been used to induce moral panics and advance anti-democratic policies, Kumar explores how ruling elites have been raising the specter of Arab and Islamic terror since the 1970s to justify militarism, war, and curbs on civil liberties. From the Iran-Hostage Crisis in 1979 to the “war on terror” after 9/11 to the rise of ISIS today, she argues that Americans have been taught to fear Muslims out of all proportion to reality, presenting a wealth of eye-opening data about the actual threat level posed by Muslim terrorists in the United States.

Constructing the Terrorist Threat offers a clear-headed assessment of terrorism that couldn’t be more timely and urgent given the politics of fear that now dominate our political landscape.

Duration: 55 min
ISBN: 1-944024-96-4
Date Produced: 2017
Subtitles: English


September 23, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

At the Movies: Global Migration Film Festival Call for Submissions


From July 3 to September 17, professional and emerging filmmakers are invited to submit original films on the Global Migration Film Festival theme: the promise and challenges of migration and the unique contributions migrants make to their new communities. Films that challenge negative perceptions of migrants, defy stereotypes and portray positive and welcoming actions by and toward migrants are encouraged.


September 19, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

At The Movies: Forbidden


Here's a new documentary worth checking out:

Two hot-button issues come together in Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America. As Donald Trump rails against Mexican immigrants and LGBTQ community, we are introduced to Moises Serrano, who came to America from Mexico when he was 18 months old. Since he was not born in America, Moises is not a legal immigrant. We soon learn that Moises also happens to be gay, and in North Carolina, that presents another set of challenges.

Moises’ larger crusade as an activist is to expand the rights of undocumented people trying to survive in America. An urgent and necessary documentary, Forbidden humanizes the issues, proving eye-opening and inspiring to audiences.

Touching upon relevant issues such as DACA, the DREAM Act, and DOCA, Forbidden highlights the need for advocacy and awareness surrounding immigration reform and LGBTQ rights.


September 9, 2017 in Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

At the Movies: George and Grace


This new short film, GEORGE AND GRACE, about the National Immigrant Justice Center, highlights meaningful stories about the American immigrant experience and the fight for social justice.

For refugees like George, finding an attorney can be the difference between safety & persecution.  We can ensure immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, like George & Grace, have an opportunity to live safely seek protection.  After escaping persecution in Uganda, George started a new life in Chicago with help from @NIJC. George escaped persecution & started new life in Chicago with @NIJC's help in a complicated system. Like many refugees, in U.S. immigration system George relived trauma he fled in Uganda.


September 6, 2017 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)