Archive for Monday, July 4, 2011

Documentary depicts stories of immigrants

July 4, 2011


Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi offers a rather endearing take on one of our most contentious issues with the documentary "Citizen USA: A 50-State Road Trip" (8 p.m., HBO). Inspired by her Dutch-born husband's embrace of American citizenship, Pelosi decided to travel to all 50 states, document naturalization ceremonies in state capitols and government offices, and interview folks about how and why they decided to renounce their nationalities to join the American family. As she observes, every year more than a million people from more than 150 countries become U.S. citizens.

As you can imagine, her film is an uplifting affirmation of America's place as a beacon of freedom and opportunity. And as she has in earlier movies about politics, Pelosi blends the profound with moments of humor and whimsy. After interviewing dozens of new citizens with varied motivations, a single theme emerges. Americans don't know how lucky we are. We often take for granted our freedom to vote, to express ourselves, to practice religion or to start a business.

She presents a parade of stories of oppression small and large. Women afraid to express themselves in Iran or Korea. Disabled people who felt relegated to second-class status. People denied education or advancement for reasons of birth, race or caste. A Syrian man who had to show identity cards at every corner and felt like a "suspect" in his own city. A gay man from Iran who felt invisible and endangered. A straight man from Afghanistan who dreamed of the day he could embrace a woman in public. A Canadian man who came for the freedom to buy firearms.

Pelosi's cross-country trip also emphasizes that the immigrant experience and the melting pot of ethnic identity and assimilation are no longer limited to coastal cities or large urban areas.

She also interviews well-known immigrants, including former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, publisher Arianna Huffington and rocker Gene Simmons.

The film offers lots to feel good about, but it's not without a little nudging to folks on different sides of the political spectrum. To some, it suggests they should not be so reticent about feeling good about America or making public displays of patriotism. It reminds others that we should not be so quick to mistrust the folks who have crossed deserts and oceans to make our nation their new home.

• Music, patriotism and pyrotechnics mingle on "A Capitol Fourth" (7 p.m., PBS) from Washington D.C.; "Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular" (8 p.m., NBC) from New York; and "The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular" (9 p.m., CBS).

• For the record, Si TV, the nation's first English-language Latino lifestyle and entertainment network, re-launches as nuvoTV.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Motorcycles and family dysfunction take center stage on the 16-hour marathon of "American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior" (8 a.m., Discovery).

• The top 14 dish it out on "MasterChef" (7 p.m., Fox).


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