Two documentaries examining immigrant experiences, both here in the US as well as in the originating countries for each subject, played last night at the DocuWeeks film festival at the Arclight Hollywood. And if you take for granted how you got here, each of these films are stark reminders of the challenges faced somewhere along the way by the people of a nation primarily descended from immigrants (let alone the problems we collectively created for Native Americans.)
Ingelore is the story of Ingelore Herz Honigstein, a deaf Jewish woman born in Germany in 1924. She comes to grips with her disability over the next 14 years as the Third Reich rises up around her, practically unnoticed by a girl who already has far too much to accommodate and overcome.
Director Frank Stiefel‘s moving film about his mother, who was present at the screening, is propelled by her own words describing her experiences at the hands of embarrassed parents, ostracizing classmates, plundering Nazis and uncaring US Consulate officials. As she tells her story of overcoming her limitations and escaping Germany for the US, I got a sense she still marvels at her own survival.
At a reception after the screening, I approached Ingelore to express the myriad of emotions I was feeling after hearing her story. The energetic 85 year-old looked me in the eye and said, “It’s a true story,” and paused, holding my gaze as she seemed to mirror my taking it in.
Ingelore screens two more times this week at the Arclight: Wed. August 5th at 3:15 PM and Thur. August 6th at noon.
Point of Entry looks at the life of a Mexican immigrant, Carlos, who illegally crossed the US border when he was 15 years old, leaving his family behind in Tlaxcala, the smallest state in Mexico. Now 30, still in the US, married (to another illegal) and with two young children born here, he continues to provide for his family back in Mexico.
Made by USC graduate student director Zeus Quijano, Jr. as part of his master thesis, the film examines familial bonds that transcend geography and economy as Carlos straddles his divided life; here with his wife and their children, now in school, and away from a family that hopes he one day will return to Mexico. The interviews with his parents as they tearfully, proudly tell of his decision to leave, are the film’s emotional core.
After the screening, Quijano told me he’s trying to get Carlos to talk to an immigration lawyer “to get legal,” but with the demands of supporting two families, he prefers spending what little downtime he has enjoying the one he’s with.
Point of Entry screens (with Ingelore, in Shorts Program 2,) two more times this week at the Arclight: Wed. August 5th at 3:15 PM and Thur. August 6th at noon.
The DocuWeeks film festival is presented yearly by the Los Angeles-based International Documentary Association simultaneously in LA and New York and runs for three weeks. (This year, July 31st through August 20th.) The non-profit organization provides filmmakers with a venue for their work as well as allowing them to qualify for Academy Award consideration. (I’m predicting good things for Ingelore in that respect.)