Photo Credit: Bread for the World

Film Series

Each semester, the Center sponsors a monthly “Immigration in Film Series” to promote an understanding of the multiple experiences of immigrants. While the film presentations are open to the public, they are often tied to courses across a number of disciplines at the University, including Anthropology, English, Art History, and History. Each film is introduced by an expert in the field of immigration studies and is followed by a discussion led by a University professor. All are free and open to the public

Below is a list of our upcoming and past films. We hope you will join us!

Upcoming Films:

American Tail

*Due to campus restrictions on in-person events, this event has been postponed until Fall 2020*
An American Tail (1986)
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
6:00 PM in Key 0106

A young mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz and his family emigrate from Russia to the United States by boat after their home is destroyed by cats. During the trip, a fierce storm throws Fievel from the ship, and he loses contact with his family. Luckily, he manages to sail to New York in a bottle. There, Irish mouse Bridget, an Italian mouse named Tony, and a kindly cat named Tiger help Fievel search for his loved ones.

Past Films:

A Bridge Apart

A Bridge Apart (2014)
Thursday, April 11, 2019
3:30-5:30 PM in the Jiménez Room, Stamp Student Union

This film delves into the mass migration of immigrants from Central America and Mexico to the United States, all in the search of the "American Dream". Told from the perspective of the immigrants themselves, stories are recounted of the brutality that many face on their journey to the U.S., including entrance into the world of human trafficking and too often the loss of life.

Speakers included:
Meg Barett - The films co-producer.
Jacqueline Bradley Chacon - UMD SAFE Center immigration attorney.
The Honorable Denise Noonan Slavin - Retired immigration judge and President Emeritus of the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ).

Human Flow

Human Flow (2017)
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
5:30-8:30 PM in the Global Crossroads H.J. Patterson Lobby

Over 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change, and war in the greatest human displacement since World War II. Human Flow, a film journey led by the renowned artist, Ai Weiwei, gives powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. This documentary follows a chain of urgent human stories that spans 23 countries and displays the staggering scale of the refugee crises and its personal human impact.

Food Chains

Food Chains: The Revolution in America's Fields (2014)
Spring 2019 (TBA)

There is so much interest in food these days yet there is almost no interest in the hands that pick that food. In the US, farm labor has always been one of the most difficult and poorly paid jobs and has relied on some of the nation's most vulnerable people. While the legal restrictions which kept people bound to farms, like slavery, have been abolished, exploitation still exists, ranging from wage theft to modern-day slavery. These days, this exploitation is perpetuated by the corporations at the top of the food chain: supermarkets. Their buying power has kept wages pitifully low and has created a scenario where desperately poor people are willing to put up with anything to keep their jobs.

Hester Street

Hester Street (1975)
Thursday, October 18, 2018
5:00-7:00 PM in Shoemaker 2102

Hester Street, a film that takes place in 1896 New York City, addresses themes of assimilation as experienced through the perspective of a Russian Jewish immigrant family.

Crossing Arizona

Crossing Arizona (2009)
Tuesday, November 14
3:30-5:30 PM in KEY 0106

Crossing Arizona is a brilliantly done film about the Border Patrol's strategy to "prevent [migration] through deterrence [fence building @heavy crossing areas/densely populated border cities]." It showcases different perspectives on the movement of migrants through the Arizona-Sonora desert region (Tohono O'odham reservation & private ranches); these perspectives include ranch owners, Humane Borders, the Border Patrol, Protect Arizona Now, the Minutemen, Mexican Americans etc. This documentary was released in 2006, however, many of the same issues continue to permeate the discussion about immigration control at the border.

Sin Nombre

March 9, 2017 - Sin Nombre (2009)

From award-winning director Cary Fukunaga, an epic dramatic thriller about a young Honduran woman, Sayra (Paulina Gaytan), who joins her father and uncle on an odyssey to cross the gauntlet of the Latin American countryside en route to the United States. Along the way she crosses paths with a teenaged Mexican gang member, El Casper (Edgar M. Flores), who is maneuvering to outrun his violent past and elude his unforgiving former associates.

Gangs of New York

April 25, 2016 - Gangs of New York (2002)

The violent rise of gangland power in New York City at a time of massive political corruption and the city's evolution into a cultural melting pot set the stage for this lavish historical epic. In 1846, as waves of Irish immigrants poured into the New York neighborhood of Five Points, a number of citizens of British and Dutch heritage who were born in the United States began making an open display of their resentment toward the new arrivals. William Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), better known as "Bill the Butcher" for his deadly skill with a knife, bands his fellow "Native Americans" into a gang to take on the Irish immigrants; the immigrants in turn form a gang of their own, "The Dead Rabbits," organized by Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson). After an especially bloody clash between the Natives and the Rabbits leaves Vallon dead, his is sent to a brutal reform school before returning to the Five Points in 1862 as Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio). Now an adult, Amsterdam has come to seek vengeance against Bill the Butcher, whose underworld control of the Five Points through violence and intimidation dovetails with the open corruption of New York politician "Boss" Tweed (Jim Broadbent). Gangs of New York portrays the chaotic world of working-class New York in the mid-1800s where political corruption, violent clashes between white natives and immigrants, and draft riots created a volatile atmosphere that left no life untouched. (Adapted from synopsis by Mark Deming, Rovi)


April 25, 2016 - The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012)

We begin in 2011 in Lahore. At an outdoor café a Pakistani man named Changez (Riz Ahmed) tells Bobby (Liev Schreiber), an American journalist, about his experiences in the United States. Roll back ten years, and we find a younger Changez fresh from Princeton, seeking fortune and glory on Wall Street. The American Dream seems well within his grasp, complete with a smart and gorgeous artist girlfriend, Erica (Kate Hudson). But when the Twin Towers are attacked, a cultural divide slowly begins to crack open between Changez and Erica. Changez’s dream soon begins to slip into nightmare: profiled, wrongfully arrested, strip-searched and interrogated, he is transformed from a well-educated, upwardly mobile businessman to a scapegoat and perceived enemy. With time, he begins to hear the call of his own homeland. Taking us through the culturally rich and beguiling worlds of New York, Lahore and Istanbul, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a story about conflicting ideologies where perception and suspicion have the power to determine life or death.


November 4, 2015 - Can (2006)

What does it take to heal from mental illness? Can Truong, a war refugee who was among the millions of boat people who fled Vietnam in the 1970's, was a model student aspiring to become a doctor, when he was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder. After years of unsuccessfully trying conventional medical treatments for his mental illnesses, Can becomes involved in the mental health consumer movement, a social and political effort by people labeled with mental illnesses who believe in recovery through self-determination and peer support. Inspired by his peers, he embarks on a healing journey of a different kind: trying to reconcile cultural differences with his very traditional Confucian father and attempts to make sense of his childhood wounds. He serves as a volunteer on numerous mental health organizations that promote recovery and explores spiritual and holistic healing modalities.

I Learn America

October 2, 2014 - I Learn America (2013)

At the International High School at Lafayette, a Brooklyn public high school dedicated to newly arrived immigrants from all over the world, five teenagers strive to master English, adapt to families they haven't seen in years, and create a future of their own while coming of age in a new land. Schools "the first and ultimate hope for integration" are generally ill-equipped to serve immigrant teenagers. Efforts to educate and integrate young immigrants across the country are limited. Especially in neighborhoods and regions where demographics have changed dramatically in recent years, schools lack the resources or understanding to meet the needs of new immigrant students. The traditional paradigm relegates them to the sidelines. Yet school offers their first chance for sustained and meaningful participation in a new society. It is in school that they determine where they belong in the reality and imagination of their new culture. It is through interactions with classmates, teachers, coaches, and social workers that they shape their identities.

Fast Food Nation

April 30, 2014 - Fast Food Nation (2006)

Based on Eric Schlossinger's 2001 book of the same title, Fast Food Nation follows the story of Don Anderson, the Mickey's food restaurant chain's Marketing Director and the inventor of Mickey's best-selling hamburger, the "Big One." When an independent research report exposes the presence of cow's feces in the Big One, Don is sent to Cody, Colorado, to investigate. During his trip he discovers what the mass production system actually involves -- including the exploitation of Mexican undocumented immigrants, the contamination of meat, and animal cruelty. With comedy and drama, this film reveals the health risks and social and environmental consequences of America's fast food industry.

The Karate Kid

February 25, 2014 - The Karate Kid (1984)

The film that launched a thousand karate dojos, The Karate Kid was a crucial cultural touchstone of the 1980s, transforming popular conceptions of not only martial arts but education, masculinity, and the place of Asian Americans in America. Appearing two years after the murder of Vincent Chin and right in the midst of the Redress Movement, the film offered up the Mr. Miyagi-Daniel LaRusso duo as a new model of multicultural harmony. Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi is a complex and enduring portrait of an Okinawan American handyman, karate sensei, classic American car aficionado, and decorated war veteran; at once he is a portrait of how ‘80s America wanted to see Asian Americans, crucial to America’s shifting vision of itself.

Sleep Dealer

December 12, 2013 - Sleep Dealer (2008)

In a bleak future where the borders have been sealed, vast computer networks commodify memories, and corporate warriors have been militarized, a tech-savvy "campesino" from a small Santa Ana farm village discovers a mysterious transmission that seems to be a blueprint for the city of the future. Memo Cruz lives with his family in Santa Ana del Rio, a remote farming community that has recently been hijacked by a private company. Having already taken control of the entire area's water supply, the company is now seeking to sell the precious resource back to citizens at criminal prices. As a result, aqua-terrorist cells have recently formed, with the explicit goal of taking back the water supply by force if necessary. Despite the growing tension in Santa Ana, however, all Memo really cares about is technology. Memo longs to find employment as a node worker in the high-tech factories of the northern cities, and has recently constructed a transmitter that allows him to vicariously experience the lives of others. One evening, while surfing the local airwaves, the gifted eavesdropper locks onto a forbidden broadcast not intended for the general public -- a broadcast that lays out explicit plans for creating a future that Memo could have never imagined.

Sleep Dealer

November 13, 2013 - Bhaji on the Beach (1993)

An assembly of Indian women, both immigrants and their British-born sisters, travel to the English seaside in this comic drama. The plot focuses on a trio of young women caught between tradition and independence: Ginder (Kim Vithana), who risks the uncertainties of social ostracism and single motherhood in order to escape from her abusive husband; Hashida (Sarita Khajuria), who jeopardizes her promising future in medical school when she becomes pregnant by her West Indian boyfriend (Mo Sesay); and Simi (Shaheen Khan), who integrates her feminist politics and her commitment to her culture by heading up the Saheli Asian Women's Group. To provide the women of her community with a chance to get together and enjoy themselves, Simi organizes a ladies-only trip to Blackpool, a seaside resort town that resembles Atlantic City. Along for the ride are boy-crazy teens, conservative matrons, and a garish visitor from Bombay, each of them offering a singular perspective on Asian immigrant culture. Asha (Lalita Ahmed), a middle-aged wife, mother, and newsstand proprietor, spends much of the trip experiencing picturesque visions in which an Indian goddess reprimands her for the missed opportunities in her life. Introspection gets pre-empted, however, when Ginder's husband (Jimmi Harkishin) and his brothers show up looking for a little involuntary family reunion.

Zoot Suit

October 23, 2013 - Zoot Suit (1982)

Part fact and part fiction, Zoot Suit is the film version of Luis Valdez's critically acclaimed play, based on the actual Sleepy Lagoon murder case and the zoot suit riots of 1940s Los Angeles. Henry Reyna is the leader of a group of Mexican-Americans being sent to San Quentin without substantial evidence for the death of a man at Sleepy Lagoon. As part of the defense committee, Alice Bloomfield and George Shearer fight the blatant miscarriage of justice for the freedom of Henry and his friends.

First Person Plural

October 3, 2013 - First Person Plural (2000)

In 1966, Deann Borshay Liem was adopted by an American family and sent from Korea to her new home in California. There the memory of her birth family was nearly obliterated, until recurring dreams led her to investigate her own past, and she discovered that her Korean mother was very much alive. Bravely uniting her biological and adoptive families, Borshay Liem embarks on a heartfelt journey in this acclaimed film that first premiered on PBS in 2000. First Person Plural is a poignant essay on family, loss and the reconciling of two identities.

The Apple Pushers

November 13, 2012 - The Apple Pushers (2011)

The Apple Pushers, narrated by Edward Norton, follows the inspiring stories of five immigrant pushcart vendors who are rolling fresh fruits and vegetables into New York City's food deserts - neighborhoods where finding a ripe, red apple is a serious challenge and where obesity rates are skyrocketing. These micro-entrepreneurs, who hail from Ecuador, Russia, Mexico, and Bangladesh, are at the heart of a unique urban strategy, the Green Cart Initiative, which seeks to increase the availability of fresh produce in under-served communities, in an effort to combat the obesity epidemic found in so many of America's cities.

In and Out of Africa

October 17, 2012 - In and Out of Africa (2012)

Interweaving stories of Western collectors, Muslim traders, African artists and intellectuals, and the filmmakers themselves, the film focuses on a remarkable art dealer from Niger named Gabai Barre. It follows him all the way from the rural Ivory Coast to East Hampton, Long Island, where he bargains for a sale. The film shows how (through occasionally hilarious and frequently fantastic tales about the art objects) he adds economic value and changes the "meaning" of what he sells by interpreting and mediating between the cultural values of African producers and Western consumers.

Mississippi Masala

October 1, 2012 - Mississippi Masala (1991)

Interweaving stories of Western collectors, Muslim traders, African artists and intellectuals, and the filmmakers themselves, the film focuses on a remarkable art dealer from Niger named Gabai Barre. It follows him all the way from the rural Ivory Coast to East Hampton, Long Island, where he bargains for a sale. The film shows how (through occasionally hilarious and frequently fantastic tales about the art objects) he adds economic value and changes the "meaning" of what he sells by interpreting and mediating between the cultural values of African producers and Western consumers.

Center for Global Migration Studies

2133 Francis Scott Key Hall
4280 Chapel Lane
College Park, MD 20742

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