Friday, April 23, 2010

La Ciudad (The City)

I don't know if there is a more immigrant-rich city in the U.S. than New York, the setting David Riker chose to portray the lives of immigrants in the U.S.  La Ciudad draws the viewer into a very authentic-feeling snapshot of several immigrants as they try to make their way in America.  I am so glad I took time to watch the "making of" featurette on the DVD.  In it, Riker discussed his desire to cast the movie not with professional actors, but with actual immigrants.  We see him canvassing day laborers and interviewing women leaving a garment factory, recruiting them to be in the film.  He interviewed immigrants to get their perspective on the immigrant life, spending 5 years researching for the film.

The movie is a series of unrelated vignettes, tied together by photography sessions in a small studio.  The segments are just long enough for us to get to know the characters and understand where they're coming from, but short enough that we're left wishing we knew more about them and the resolution to their problems.  We gain intimate access to their lives, reading the day laborer's letter from his wife back in Mexico, joining a joyful quinceanera celebration, listening as the puppeteer reads to his daughter in the back of the car they live in.  We wonder, Does the young man find his new love again?  Does the little girl get enrolled in a school, even though she and her dad have no address?  Do the garment workers finally get paid? 

Filmed in black and white, the film has a timeless quality to it.  I would almost view this as a documentary of immigrant life, which happens to follow the stories of a few individuals.  Even thought it is a fictional film, I have no question that the stories so artfully told in La Ciudad have been told many times before, on many street corners in many cities, in many languages.

Bottom line, 3 stars.

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