The American Tapestry

This feel-good video documentary (1999) argues that the U.S. is richer for being a tapestry of immigrant cultures—not exactly an original point. Director Gregory Nava presents stories of five families from different cultures and time periods, but he encourages false generalizations from particulars: we learn that the Jew immigrating in 1920 got in more easily than the Chinese in 1933, but the video never explains the difficulties eastern Europeans faced after the 1924 immigration law. Some interesting details emerge (copies of the Chicago Defender urging southern blacks to move north were “smuggled” into southern towns by railroad porters), but they get lost as Nava meanders through the ordinary (a veteran recalling World War II, a Mexican woman explaining that she loves her children). His principal idea of visual style seems to be inserting a sunset about every ten minutes.

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