The recent presidential primaries and election campaign reduced discussion of immigration to a nearly exclusive focus on Latinos and the construction of fences on the border with Mexico —as well as draconian Arizona laws requiring documented immigrants ("resident aliens") to carry proof of identity. The possibility of seriously addressing the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the country is encumbered by this distortion and other political complications. The film Immigrants, by University of New Orleans film and theater professor Laszlo Fulop and Tulane University history professor Marline Otte, is a welcome breath of fresh air in the discussion of immigration and global connections. It is, however, similarly narrow in focus. The hourlong film features interviews with "creative class" immigrants — all are professionals or academics. They come from countries including Spain, India, Bolivia, Brazil, South Korean, Japan, Ghana, Ireland and Australia, among others. The various subjects talk about their lives as immigrants in America, but many of the most interesting observations come in comparisons of living in America versus other cultures — for example Irish Catholicism versus American Catholicism.
The film is anecdotal. There is no narrator, no statistics, no analysis. Instead, the interviewees talk directly to the camera about everything from their names and accents to religious and gender role differences between countries. The short interview segments don't always follow a particular line of thought, and at times they are interspersed with superfluous scenes of a modern dance performance.
The film obviously suggests these and many other individuals are not accurately described by the labels thrown around in politically loaded discussions of immigration. This group isn't representative of the immigration issue anyway, but given the diversity of individuals' nations of origin, it offers a broad view of an increasingly interrelated world of nations, and some of the subjects have migrated to different countries several times. The film screens in conjunction with excerpts from the same filmmakers in an exhibit called Home and Away in the Contemporary Arts Center's video gallery. There is a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers following the screening. Admission is free to Louisiana residents. — Will Coviello