Thursday, April 7, 2016

At the Movies: The Paradise that Wasn't (Refugees in Baltimore)

The Paradise that Wasn't from Wide Angle Youth Media on Vimeo.

Each year, hundreds of young people and their families come to Baltimore as refugees. They are excited to come here and to have access to education and opportunity. But, for many youth refugees, Baltimore turns out to be a difficult place, where their American-born peers tease and bully them for being different. In this short documentary, filmmaker Evodie Ngoy, herself a refugee from the Congo DRC, helps other youth refugees tell their stories in order to challenge the prejudices that refugees face in America.



April 7, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

At the Movies: Miss India America (2016)


In a new feature film, Miss India America, Lily Prasad is graduating from her Orange County high school at the top of her class. And she has a plan, "The Lily Plan”. She will become a brain surgeon like her father. Her sweet, lost boyfriend Karim will become a petroleum engineer. They’ll get married. Have kids. Live happily ever after. But the plan is thrown into confusion when KarimM becomes smitten by and runs off with the reigning Miss India National beauty queen. 

Not happy about losing at anything, Lily decides that she herself must become the new Miss India National! So talents must be learnt and the competition must be crushed! But Lily will discover you’re not always a winner when you win, and there’s maybe more to learn when you lose.  

A smart, witty, coming of age comedy feature film.

Hereis the Hollywood Reporter review.



March 27, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Latinos Admit to Being 'Murderers,' 'Traffickers' and 'Thieves' in Anti-Trump Ad


Earlier this week, Republican group Our Principles PAC used presidential candidate Donald Trump's own words against him in an ad featuring women reading his offensive quotes about the opposite sex. Now, the CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles) Action fund has turned Mr. Trump's statements about Latinos against him in another spot.

The ad features various Latinos "owning up" to the characterizations Mr. Trump had made of them as dealers, killers, murderers, attackers, traffickers and thieves, each wearing a t-shirt with those titles. "I am a dealer," "I am a killer," "I am a thief," "I am an attacker," they say.

But as each turns around, they reveal their true identities: the "trafficker" is actually a trafficker of stories -- a film director; the "murderer" is a murderer of boredom, a comedian; and the dealers include a dealer of flavors (a chef), a dealer of care (a nanny) and a dealer of justice (an attorney) and so forth.

The ad directs viewers to an accompanying site, where they can see the film and purchase their own t-shirts re-framing Trump's pejorative characterizations.


March 21, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Trump Model Management Abusing H-1 Visa Holders?


CNN Money reports that Donald Trump's modeling agency has profited from the same visa program that the presidential candidate himself has challenged -- and may have violated federal law in the process. 

During the presidential campaign, Trump has criticized U.S. companies using foreign workers instead of Americans.  He  specifically has criticized the employment of high-skilled workers brought to the United States through the H-1B visa program.  Although this program is best known for bringing over technology workers including engineers and computer programmers, Trump's modeling agency has used the program. The program has allowed fashion models to be eligible for H-1B visas; it appears to be the only job for which one can secure such a visa that does not require higher education.  



The use of H-1B visas by Trump Model Management, founded by Trump in 1999, is being questioned. The agency is currently battling a proposed class action lawsuit filed by Jamaican model Alexia Palmer, who was came to the U.S. through an H-1B visa. The suit alleges that the agency recruits foreign models with promises of wages that never materialize and defrauds the U.S. government on visa applications. Palmer is currently the only plaintiff and the suit has not yet been certified as a class-action. In her case, Palmer allegedly was paid a few thousand dollars over three years despite being lured with the promise of more than $200,000 in earnings in that same time period. That salary was listed by Trump Model Management as part of Palmer's visa application.  Palmer said that she felt that she was a "slave" working for the agency. 



Born in the former Yugoslavia, Melania Trump was associated as a model with Trump Model Management, before her marriage to Donald Trump.


March 13, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Trevor Noah: Immigration Comic

Trevor Noah is the South African comic who took over for Jon Stewart as host of the Daily Show. He used to be a stand up comic traveling the world and enjoying the strict gaze of immigration officials. Check out this bit:


The first two minutes might be good for use in class to give students the feel of a border interrogation.


March 5, 2016 in Film & Television, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Rubio's Pro-America Ad Features Canada

Marco Rubio's latest ad starts with the line "It's morning again in America." But, as Buzzfeed points out, dawn in the video appears to be breaking over Vancouver, not the United States.


Geography aside, I think Rubio's just pleased his ad doesn't feature an adult film actress, which is more than Ted Cruz can say.

Politics is fun.


February 16, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

At the Movies: Food Chain$: The Revolution in America's Fields


In this exposé, an intrepid group of Florida farmworkers battle to defeat the $4 trillion global supermarket industry through their ingenious Fair Food program, which partners with growers and retailers to improve working conditions for farm laborers in the United States.

There is more interest in food these days than ever, yet there is very little interest in the hands that pick it. Farmworkers, the foundation of our fresh food industry, are routinely abused and robbed of wages. In extreme cases they can be beaten, sexually harassed or even enslaved – all within the borders of the United States.

Food Chains reveals the human cost in our food supply and the complicity of large buyers of produce like fast food and supermarkets. Fast food is big, but supermarkets are bigger – earning $4 trillion globally. They have tremendous power over the agricultural system. Over the past 3 decades they have drained revenue from their supply chain leaving farmworkers in poverty and forced to work under subhuman conditions. Yet many take no responsibility for this.

The narrative of the film focuses on an intrepid and highly lauded group of tomato pickers from Southern Florida – the Coalition of Immokalee Workers or CIW – who are revolutionizing farm labor. Their story is one of hope and promise for the triumph of morality over corporate greed – to ensure a dignified life for farm workers and a more humane, transparent food chain.

Food Chains premiered at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival and screened subsequently at the Tribeca Film Festival and Guadalajara Film Festival.  Food Chains will be released nationwide November 21st. The film’s Executive Producers include Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser.




February 16, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Actress Diane Guerrero Calls for Immigration Justice


Actress Diane Guerrero, best known for her roles in “Jane the Virgin” and “Orange is the New Black,” is taking a public stance today against politicians who are fueling intolerance with hate speech and rhetoric that target and criminalize the immigrant community. Guerrero, whose parents were both deported when she was 14, tells her personal story in a new video today on behalf of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and United We Dream (UWD).

In the video, Guerrero says, “Whatever our personal reasons — whether we were born here or our parents came here for a shot at the American dream — we need to stand up to reactionary policies aimed at targeting and criminalizing the immigrant community. We can and must do better.” 

This is not the first time Guerrero has spoken out about her story and comes as politicians, from members of Congress to the 2016 presidential field, address immigration and the impact that mass incarceration and mass deportation has on immigrant communities. At the end of the video, Guerrero says, “Please join me by telling our members of Congress and our local and state leaders to stand with us by condemning policies that separate families and destroy our communities. We have to work together to ensure that no child ever comes home to an empty house.” Sign a petition here.

“I hope this creates a sense of urgency around our broken immigration system and the need for policies that keep families together,” said Guerrero in a statement about her partnership with the ILRC and UWD. “We have to stop tearing families apart and subjecting immigrants to the kind of fear and oppression that many fled from in their home countries. We have to end policies that encourage racial profiling and mass incarceration. We have to get local law enforcement out of the business of deportation.”

Among the enforcement-centric policies highlighted by Guerrero, the Obama Administration deported more than 300,000 individuals in 2014.  Additionally, current law requires 34,000 immigrants per day be detained while in deportation proceedings, including entire families.

The full script of the video is below:

With all the hate speech and the intolerance these days, it’s easy to forget that we are a nation of immigrants.

Whatever our personal reasons whether we were born here or our parents came here for a shot at the American dream we need to stand up to reactionary policies aimed at targeting and criminalizing the immigrant community. We can and must do better.

I was 14 when my family was torn apart by deportation. My family was taken because they were undocumented immigrants just like 11 million other people living and working in America today.

In recent years the Administration has taken steps to protect young immigrants but it’s not enough and now some lawmakers are proposing drastic and harsh new laws that would pave the way for more intolerance, more deportation and more family separation. We need your help.

Please join me by telling our members of congress and our local and state leaders to stand with us by condemning policies that separate families and destroy our communities. We have to work together to ensure that no child ever comes home to an empty house. For more information on how you can help visit:


February 4, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Define American Film Festival in Iowa


For film, immigration, and political junkies, this film festival is for you.  It kicked off on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Define American Film Festival focuses on the issue of immigration and will screen immigration-related films ahead of the Iowa Caucuses.  The festival will show six feature-length films.  The films all explore different immigrant experiences.

The festival also brought Oscar nominees to Iowa, including:

Christopher Weitz is currently writing the upcoming film “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” He's best known for his work on the film "About a Boy," which he co-directed and was nominated for an Oscar.

Demián Bichir is a Mexican actor who is best known in the United States for his role in the FX drama “The Bridge.” He was most recently in Quentin Tarantino's “The Hateful Eight” and was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor for the 2011 film “A Better Life.”

The festival was organized by Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, filmmaker and the founder of Define American, a non-profit organization that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration and citizenship in America.

Ahead of Iowa's Feb. 1st Caucuses, the Define American Film Festival will provide voters and the media with diverse perspectives about immigration and American identity.

The six feature-length narrative and documentary films to be shown at the festival are:

A Better Life (2011)

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

Mother of George (2013)

Don't Tell Anyone (2015)

The Muslims are Coming! (2013)

Documented (2013)


January 23, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 22, 2016

At the Movies: Brooklyn


The film Brooklyn, immigration theme and all, has been nominated for three Academy Awards, including the much-coveted Best Picture Award.  Here is the synopsis:  An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.


January 22, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

At the Movies: Refuge: Caring for Survivors of Torture


Refuge:  Caring for Survivors of Torture

Refugees, asylees and caregivers share their stories to help professionals and volunteers understand the needs of the more than a million survivors of torture rebuilding lives in the US.

It's estimated that more than a million refugees, asylum-seekers and other immigrants to the United States have been victims of politically motivated torture. They come here from all parts of the world -- some legally, some undocumented, some with families and some very much alone. They live in major American cities and in small towns. Some survivors bear visible scars, but many more have been wounded in ways that remain hidden.

Advocates for torture survivors, dedicated healthcare and social service professionals, and hundreds of citizen volunteers have united to create programs throughout the country that provide care and support to survivors who have come here to make new lives.

This documentary highlights five treatment and support programs in Minneapolis, Atlanta, the Boston Area, and Washington, DC. Based on interviews with dozens of survivors and with the professionals and volunteers who are helping them to heal, this film is a tribute to their courage and dedication, and a call to action.

Directed by Ben Achtenberg
Produced by Ben Achtenberg
Editor: Ben Achtenberg
Cinematographer, Online Editor: Bruce Petschek
Associate Producer: Roz Dzelzitis
Music: John Kusiak
Editorial Consultants: Ann Carol Grossman, Chi-Ho Lee
A production of The Refuge Media Project


January 21, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Ted Cruz's Immigration Ad

Ted Cruz's immigration ad features men and women in suits crossing the Rio Grande as Cruz says:

"I understand that when mainstream media covers immigration it doesn't often see it as an economic issue. But I can tell you it is a very personal economic issue. And I will say the politics of it would be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande. Or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down wages in the press. Then we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation."



January 5, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Migrant Women As "Prey"

This is likely shocking to none of our readers, but from the NYT: On Perilous Migrant Trail, Women Often Become Prey to Sexual Abuse.

The article notes that all migrants to Europe face a perilous journey. "But at each step of the way, the dangers are amplified for women."

As one migrant said: “Everybody knows there are two ways of paying the smugglers,” she said. “With money or with your body.”

The dangers facing migrants in Europe are no different from those facing Central Americans coming to the United States. I'm still haunted by the scene in Which Way Home where one of the young boys recounts seeing the gang rape of a mother and her young daughter inside of a rail car.


January 3, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Legendary Teacher Jaime Escalante, Immigrant from Bolivia, to Be on U.S. Postage Stamp


The U.S. Postal Service has previewed its new 2016 stamps. One of the new stamps will picture a famous immigrant and previous Immigrant of the Day

Born in Bolivia, Jaime Escalante was a legendary math teacher of inner city Chicano students at an East Los Angeles high school.  Escalante used unconventional methods to inspire his students not only to learn calculus but also to pass Advanced Placement tests in the subject. With his colleagues at Garfield High School, he proved that students judged to be “unteachable” could master even the most difficult subject.

The stamp art features Escalante in a digital illustration that resembles an oil painting. The illustration is based on a 2005 photograph taken by Jaime W. Escalante, in a classroom where his father formerly taught.

Escalante was played by actor Edward James Olmos in the feature film Stand and Deliver.


January 1, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

A comedy televison show called "Bordertown"? Comedy Raises Awareness About Immigration, U.S./Mexico Border


What?  A FOX television show called Bordertown.  Yes, it is true and the news story here has the details.

The show is described on the official website as follows:

"From FAMILY GUY’s Mark Hentemann comes BORDERTOWN, a new animated comedy about two families living in a Southwest desert town on the U.S. - Mexico border. The series takes a satirical look at the cultural shifts occurring in America, where the U.S. Census forecasts that by 2017, ethnic minorities will become the majority. Set against this increasingly diverse backdrop, the comedy explores family, politics and everything in between with a cross-cultural wink.

BORDERTOWN centers on two clans: the Buckwalds and the Gonzalezes. BUD BUCKWALD (Hank Azaria, THE SIMPSONS) is a married father of three and a Border Patrol agent who is just a tad behind the times and feels slightly threatened by the cultural changes transforming his neighborhood. He lives next door to ERNESTO GONZALEZ (Nicholas Gonzalez, SLEEPY HOLLOW), an ambitious family man, who has been in the country less than 10 years, but is already doing better than Bud – which, it turns out, is a bit of an issue for Bud."

No, "Bordertown"  is not the idea of Donald Trump.  It in fact has been in development since 2007, long before the immigration furor sparked by Trump's fiery comments about Mexican immigrants.

The series' premiere is on Sunday and deals with a toughest-in-the-nation anti-immigration bill passed by Mexifornia, the U.S. desert community where "Bordertown" is set.  The second episode airs January 10 looks at construction of a border wall.

Variety provides a review of the new series here.


January 1, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Colbert on Syrian Refugees

I missed this piece from back in November. Colbert takes on Republican candidates looking to restrict or eliminate refugee flows from Syria or Iraq.

He notes that Trump has suggested that relocating refugees to a place like Minnesota would be against their interests because of the extreme difference in the weather from Syria. Colbert agrees: "It's a tough call for the refugees. I mean, do I want to stay in a war zone where my family faces almost certain death or I want to go somewhere where I have to put on a jacket before I go to the mall?"

It's a great two minutes for sparking classroom conversation (check out 1:20-2:03).


And here's a still image from the show that could also work well in the classroom.



December 30, 2015 in Film & Television, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Immigrant of the Day: Billy Wilder, Filmmaker (Austria)


Billy Wilder (1906–2002) was an Austrian-born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist and journalist, whose career spanned more than fifty years and sixty films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age.  With The Apartment, Wilder became the first person to win Academy Awards as producer, director and screenwriter for the same film.

Wilder became a screenwriter in the late 1920s while living in Berlin. After the rise of the Nazi Party, Wilder, who was Jewish, left for Paris, where he made his directorial debut. He moved to Hollywood in 1933, and in 1939 he had a hit when he co-wrote the screenplay for the screwball comedy Ninotchka.

Wilder established his directorial reputation with Double Indemnity (1944), a film noir he co-wrote with crime novelist Raymond Chandler. Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards for the adaptation of a Charles R. Jackson story The Lost Weekend (1945), about alcoholism. In 1950, Wilder co-wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Sunset Boulevard.

Wilder directed fourteen different actors in Oscar-nominated performances. He was recognized with the American Film Institute (AFI) Life Achievement Award in 1986.



December 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Feliz Navidad



December 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Modern Love Story? Love in a Time of Deportation


 David Noriega on Buzzfeed tells an unlikely love story that he calls "Love in a Time of Deportation."  Here is the teaser:  "He was an inmate, facing deportation over a minor arrest. She was a guard, fed up with her job at a for-profit prison. They fell in love, but living happily ever after was not going to happen."  Click the link above to read more.




December 18, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Donald Trump on Terrorists: 'Take out their families'


CNN reports on Donald Trump's latest controversial statement, this one on fighting ISIS.   said Wednesday that he would kill the families of terrorists in order to win the fight against ISIS. The businessman was asked by the hosts of Fox News' "Fox and Friends" how to fight ISIS:  "The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don't kid yourself. When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families," Trump said. Trump said he would "knock the hell out of" ISIS, and criticized the U.S. for "fighting a very politically correct war."


December 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)