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<I>LA Ciudad</I> - the City: New Film Starring Immigrant Workers Portrays Immigrant Life in New York City

October 28, 1999
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Today, a look at the film La Ciudad (The City), a remarkable portrayal of immigrant life in this country whose entire cast is made up of immigrant workers living in New York City. The film was written, directed and edited by David Riker.

It comes at a time when immigrants are facing tougher conditions both in entering the United States, and in living, working and surviving within its borders.

This November 2, on what is known throughout Latin America as "The Day of the Dead," a coalition of immigrant organizations around the country will stage the "National Day Against Immigrant Deaths" which will commemorate the deaths of immigrants who died crossing the US-Mexico border by planting 300 crosses in each city.

They say that the enormous rise in deaths is due to stiffer border controls such as Operation Rio Grande that force immigrants to choose more dangerous routes into the United States, and many of them die of exposure, dehydration and assaults. A recent study showed that every year, at least 300 women, men and children die in these conditions while crossing the border.

Also, Congress is considering a new agriculture law that would allow temporary laborers into the country–a measure known as the "bracero" law. Growers are pushing for the law as a means of getting cheap labor. However, both labor and immigrant rights organizations say that the law does not allow for sufficient protections for the immigrant workers, a group that has become the fastest growing sector in organized labor in some of the nation’s agricultural regions. And in California, politicians are reviving "Proposition 187," the measure that seeks to deny public services such as health and education to undocumented immigrants. Ron Prince, who was Chair of the Proposition 187 movement in 1994, says he plans to re-introduce the measure in the year 2,000 ballot.

La Ciudad, shot in black and white, tells four stories: a group of day laborers is hired to clean bricks and one of them is crushed by a tumbling wall, a homeless puppeteer seeks a better life for his young daughter, two young people from the same village in Mexico meet by chance at a "sweet fifteen" party and fall in love, and a seamstress needs to send money back home for her sick child but the sweatshop where she works hasn’t paid her in weeks. Although the stories are fictional, they rely on accounts told by immigrants to writer-director David Riker during his five years of research and filming.

A few days ago, before David Riker went to Los Angeles for the opening of his film there, he spoke to Democracy Now! about the making of La Ciudad.

Guest:

  • David Riker, Filmmaker who wrote, directed and edited La Ciudad.

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