Immigration has consistently been a point of political turmoil in recent history, but with the 2016 election, the debate over borders, refugees, and immigration policy has heated considerably. These ten films feature characters who’ve left their homeland and entered a new country–some legally and some not–seeking work, love, peace, healing, a dream, or just survival. Let me be clear–we’re not taking sides on current or future immigration policy. Librarians tend to be professionally opposed to telling people what to think. But we’ll always encourage you to use library resources to think about any topic–even the controversial ones.
Sweet Land: Inge is a feisty German mail-order bride who has come to Minnesota to marry Olaf, a young Norwegian immigrant farmer of few words. But in a post-WWI, anti-German climate, the local minister openly forbids the marriage. Inge and Olaf fall in love despite the town’s disapproval. But when the town banker attempts to foreclose on the farm of his friend Frandsen, Olaf takes a stand.
100 Foot Journey: Hassan is a culinary ingenue with the gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch. Displaced from their native India, his family settles in a quaint village in the south of France. They plan to open an Indian restaurant, that is, until Madame Mallory, the owner of a classical French restaurant, gets wind of it. Her icy protests against the new Indian restaurant so near her own escalate to all out war; until Hassan’s cooking talent and love for Mme. Mallory’s assistant, Marguerite cannot be ignored.
In America: Told by 11-year-old Christy, a child wise beyond her years. An Irish couple bring their two young daughters to America in search of a better life. Christy and her sister, Ariel find New York’s Hell’s Kitchen a place of magic where anything is possible. To their parents, it represents a place to begin anew. Carried by the girls’ youthful hope and faith, the family finds the heart to live and love again.
El Norte: Mayan Indian peasants are tired of being thought of as nothing more than manual laborers. They organize an effort to improve their lot in life, but are discovered by the Guatemalan army. After the army destroys their village and family, Enrique and Rosa, a teenage brother and sister, who barely escaped the massacre, decide they must flee to the United States. After receiving clandestine help from friends and humorous advice from a veteran immigrant on strategies for traveling, they make their way by truck, bus and other means to Los Angeles, where they try to make a new life as young, uneducated, and illegal immigrants.
The Visitor: Lonely widower Walter befriends the immigrant couple who unwittingly leased his New York apartment, and fights for them when they are threatened with deportation.
Gran Torino: A Korean war veteran and retired automaker finds himself defending his Hmong immigrant neighbors against a local gang, and sets out to reform their teenage son, who tried to steal his prized Gran Torino.
Avalon: A Russian family comes to the USA at the beginning of the century and they and their children try to make themselves a better future in the promised land.
Far and Away: A poor but proud Irish tenant farmer accompanies the spoiled and headstrong daughter of a wealthy landlord to America in a quest for land.
Eternity and a Day: A famous writer is told he has only a few days to live. He meets a young boy on the street, an illegal immigrant from Albania, and decides to take him back home. During the trip, the writer hopes to learn about life and death.
The Terminal: Viktor is a simple man with a mission who finds himself entrapped in JFK airport after the accidental loss of his country to villainous coup. He becomes a man without a country and is stuck in at the airport’s international terminal with no visa, and is instructed that he is not allowed to leave. Slowly he encounters airport workers who come to his aid by mutual coercion. Gupta the hilarious Indian custodian; Enrique who transports food; Torres the security clerk and Mulroy. Viktor eventually falls for a stewardess who has spent her life waiting for the right man to come along.