The following is a list of recommended films and documentaries about the immigrant and refugee experience in the United States.
(Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini, 2000). In order to meet the refugee standard, an individual must be able to show s/he has a “well-founded fear” of persecution. This gripping film follows the fortunes of people from various countries as they make their claim for refugee protection in the United States.
Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter
(Barbara Atlee and Janet Goldwater, 2009). Female genital mutilation is the focus of this documentary, as Mrs. Goundo is seeking refugee protection for her daughter in the United States on the grounds that she would be subjected to this treatment if returned home to Mali.
Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars
(Zach Niles and Banker White, 2005). This film is about a group of refugees from Sierra Leone who form a band and sing about the refugee experience. The music alone makes this documentary worth watching.
God Grew Tired of Us
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, this documentary explores the indomitable spirit of three “Lost Boys” from the Sudan who leave their homeland, triumph over seemingly insurmountable adversities, and move to America, where they build active and fulfilling new lives but remain deeply committed to helping the friends and family they have left behind. Rated PG.
The Lost Boys of Sudan
This Emmy-nominated feature-length documentary follows two Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America. Orphaned as young boys in one of Africa’s cruelest civil wars, Peter Dut and Santino Chuor survived lion attacks and militia gunfire to reach a refugee camp in Kenya along with thousands of other children. From there, remarkably, they were chosen to come to America. Safe at last from physical danger and hunger, in a world away from home, they finnd themselves confronted with the abundance and alienation of contemporary American suburbia. Unrated.
Putting a human face on a controversial immigration policy, this documentary follows three young Cambodian Americans through the deportation process. Raised in inner city Seattle, they pay an unbearable price for mistakes they made as teenagers. Under strict anti-terrorism legislation enacted in 1996, even minor convictions can result in automatic deportation. Told in the voices of the deportees, their families and friends, the film explores what it’s like to be deported along with the reasons behind the deportees’ fate. Unrated.
When nine-year-old Carla su# ers a life-threatening accident, her mother, Carmen, must leave her behind and make the dangerous and illegal journey from Bolivia to the United States, where she hopes to earn enough to save her daughter’s life. Carmen struggles in vain to legalize her immigration status and wrestles with the prospect of never seeing her daughter again. This documentary is Carmen’s story, and the story of millions of undocumented immigrants who leave their families behind to pursue the American dream. Unrated.