Films on Immigration

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The immigrants side is presented first, because we already know the USA side.

The Other Side of Immigration

Documentary 2009 NR 55 minutes. Contemporary immigration issues between the United States and Mexico receive careful study in this documentary, which uses extensive interviews to outline the experiences and perspectives of ordinary citizens in the Mexican countryside. In examining the economic factors prompting Mexicans to seek work in the United States and the social pressures that result, the film presents an affecting look at a complex political and moral issue. If you want to learn more about why Mexicans migrate to the US, this movie explains it.  See Full Review

The Harvest / La Cosecha

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr  20m. This gripping documentary follows three of the more than 400,000 migrant child farm workers in the United States who miss out on childhood and school as they work up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, without the protection of child labor laws.

The Dream Is Now

Documentary 2013 NR 30m. The Dream Is Now tells the moving story of those directly affected by a broken immigration system, the undocumented children of immigrants who yearn to contribute more to the country they call home.

The Undocumented Documentary

Documentary 2005 NR 90 minutes. Director Arturo Perez Torres’s award-winning documentary about undocumented workers chronicles the life-and-death journeys of Central American and Mexican migrants as they enter the United States without going through proper immigration channels. The subjects’ first-person perspective sheds light on individual motivations for the trek and the hazards encountered on their way to the American dream.See Full Review

Which Way Home

Documentary 2007 NR 83 minutes. In 2006, Rebecca Cammisa received a Fulbright Scholar Grant to travel to Mexico to document the plight of the children left behind when their families travel to the United States to find work. This Oscar-nominated film is the result of her journey. Cammisa and her crew follow a trio of children who set out on their own from their Latin American abodes on a dangerous trek through Mexico en route to the U.S. border and — they hope — their families’ embrace. See Full Review

Mojados: Through the Night

Documentary 2005 NR 70 minutes. Director Tommy Davis follows four migrants from rural Mexico on their harrowing journey across the desert into the States. Their 120-mile trek is filled with peril as they evade the border patrol, endure temperature extremes, contend with dehydration and face the all-too-real possibility that their quest for a better life could end in death. Disquietingly honest, this documentary puts a human face to the complex issue of illegal immigration.


Documentary 2005 NR 84 minutes. Director Mark Becker’s moving documentary follows Mexican mariachi singers Carmelo and Arturo, who pour their passion and talent into their music, performing for largely unappreciative audiences on the streets and in the watering holes of San Francisco. But despite the hardships and meager income, the two immigrants persist in pursuing their art, chasing the dream of a better future for themselves — and their families.

Lost in Detention

Documentary Frontline 2011 Oct18. Frontline and the Investigative Reporting Workshop examine the Obama administration’s controversial get-tough immigration policy. After abuses were uncovered, the Obama administration called for an overhaul of the immigrant detention system.  Link to View This Frontline Story for Free (Listed by Date 2011 Oct18):

El Norte

Drama 1983 Spanish with English subtitles Color 139 min. A Guatemalan brother and sister become illegal immi­grants in the United States, fleeing tyrannical landlords and a repressive government at home and drawn by the promise of “the wonders” of the country to the north. Film is one of several that focus on migration as es­cape from the problems of developing countries.

New Harvest, Old Shame

Documentary Frontline 1990. Thirty years after Edward R. Murrow’s ‘Harvest of Shame,’ Frontline correspondent David Marash looks at the continuing plight of migrant farm workers and explores the forces that keep their lives so desperate.


“The United States can’t employ it’s own population! I liked this documentary but there are so many people in the us that can’t provide for their families, our jobs are sent overseas and you basically need a degree to work at McDonalds, or there are so many people lined up to apply for the same job that your chances are slim to none to actually get hired! So, how can a coutry provide jobs to another country when it can’t even support it’s own population”

Border War
The Battle Over Illegal Immigration

Documentary 2006 NR 95 minutes. Produced by conservative grassroots group Citizens United president David N. Bossie, this provocative documentary chronicles the lives of five disparate people affected by the ongoing battle at the U.S.-Mexico border. Voices from the front lines include undocumented workers, open-border advocates, Hispanic-American “minutemen,” U.S. border patrol agents and even a high-profile member of Congress.

California: The Immigration Dilemma
Hard times stir up the issue in Central Valley

Documentary Frontline / World 2009. Reporter Jason Margolis travels to the fields and farm communities of California’s San Joaquin Valley to see how the economic downturn and a three-year drought are stirring the immigration debate.

Guatemala: In the Shadow of the Raid
U.S. Immigration Raid Leaves Lasting Mark

Documentary Frontline / World 2009. On the two-year anniversary of the immigration raid at a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa–one of the largest workplace raids in history–an affecting look at the human cost of the crackdown on both sides of the border.

Entre Nos

Docudrama 2009 NR 1hr 21m. Abandoned by her husband in a country foreign to her, a Colombian struggles to take care of herself and her two children on the streets of New York. Based on a true story.


Documentary 2008 NR 107 minutes. Filmmaker Chris Burgard presents a forceful examination of the violence routinely occurring near the U.S.-Mexico border and the steps that law enforcement officials and everyday citizens are taking to combat it. Illegal crossings, drug smuggling, rape and murder are just a few of the flashpoints that Burgard exposes in order to generate awareness of the crisis and inspire politicians to get serious about ensuring America’s border security.

Chicago: Little Mexico
Legal Son of an Illegal Mother

Documentary Frontline / World 2006. Elvira Arellano is an illegal Mexican immigrant living in Chicago with a deportation order — and a 7-year-old American-born son. As a first-generation Polish immigrant who lived in Chicago for nearly 25 years, reporter Marian Marzynski brings a unique perspective to the story of migration to the United States, interweaving Arelleno’s story with Chicago’s history as an immigrant city.

Crossing Arizona

Documentary 2005 NR 75 minutes. Examine the toughest issues surrounding illegal immigration with this documentary, which presents the viewpoints of ranchers, politicians, activists, employers, and others who live on the Arizona-Mexico border and deal with this matter every day. Viewers will learn about the costs illegal immigration has on local businesses, the reasons individuals risk their lives crossing the border and possible solutions to this crisis.

The Border

Drama 1982 R 109 minutes. Border patrol guard Charlie Smith (Jack Nicholson) is plagued by a guilty conscience when, after moving to El Paso with his wife, he goes on the take and helps to smuggle aliens across the border for work as farmhands on U.S. ranches. This movie is a rare glimpse of Nicholson (who plays against type here) in the role of old-fashioned movie hero. Co-stars Harvey Keitel and Valerie Perrine.

Go Back to Mexico!

Documentary Frontline 1994. America continues to wage a battle against the stream of undocumented immigrants entering the country. An estimated three million undocumented immigrants currently reside in the US. Each year, another three hundred thousand illegal immigrants arrive in the US in addition to the nearly nine hundred thousand who are legally accepted. How long can America sustain this influx of immigrants? And how real are the growing fears about economic costs and long-term social and political disruption? Frontline correspondent William Langewiesche explores these questions, focusing on California.

A Day Without A Mexican

Satire 2004 R 100 minutes. One morning, California wakes up to find that one-third of its population — the Hispanic third — has disappeared in this unusual comedy. The economic, political and social implications of this disaster threaten California’s way of life. One third of the population of California are Latinos, Hispanics, Mexicans. How would it change life for the state’s other residents if this portion of the populous was suddenly not there? Director Sergio Arau calls his film a “mockumentary.” Yareli Arizmendi, married to Arau, co-wrote and stars in the film. She says it is their hope that lawmakers and moviegoers will recognize the valuable contributions made everyday by Latinos.


Romantic Comedy 2004 PG-13 131 minutes. When a beautiful Mexican housekeeper, Flor (Paz Vega), is hired by a rich Los Angeles family, everyone’s life is upended in hilariously zany ways, especially when the parents (Téa Leoni and Adam Sandler) make it their mission to be so welcoming that they become overwhelming. Cultures clash with a mighty clang — especially when the man of the house is charmed by Flor’s beauty — in this comedy of manners and mayhem directed by James L. Brooks.


90 Millas

Drama 2005 NR 105 minutes. A Cuban family risks everything for freedom and the American Dream in director Francisco Rodríguez Gordillo’s poignant drama. Determined to make it to Miami, the family boards a flimsy rubber dinghy on a treacherous 90-mile journey. Motivated by the desire for a better life, they must find a way to survive rough weather, shark-infested waters and dwindling supplies. Daisy Granados, Claudia Rojas, Enrique Molina and Leonel Valdes star.


Documentary 2002 NR 120 minutes. This Oscar-nominated documentary from Carles Bosch and Josep Maria Domenech follows the 1994 exodus of refugees from Cuba to Miami. The perilous journey of the balseros (Cuban rafters) is captured through remarkable footage, including dramatic shots of the would-be refugees tearing down their houses to construct dangerously flimsy rafts. The filmmakers also catch up, seven years later, with a handful of refugees who were allowed into the U.S. The documentary is very good, though it mostly gives you the view of those who had a very difficult time after arriving in the US. It does not give you the perspective of the cuban professional (eg. dentist, doctors, etc) who arrived at the US and flourished into millionares – flourished might be good or bad depending if you see being a millionare as a good or bad thing – eg. what do you value. Anyway, from living 20+ years in Miami and having many friends who arrived as balseros (balseros=rafters, balsa=raft) and many friends that came in from the Mariel project, I can say first hand that they are very hard workers, stick together, and many make the most out of the capitalistic opportunities.

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