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The New Americans


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#1

Ollie

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Posted Mar 30, 2004 @ 12:58 PM

Anybody else watching this very interesting documentary about immigrants on PBS?

Edited to add: hooray! Glad I'm not the only one!

Did anyone else worry at first that the Palestinian woman was about to get her heart broken? It seemed at first that her suitor wasn't as serious as she was about the whole thing (like he just got engaged to hang onto her or something), but he quickly showed how serious he was and began "jumping through hoops." I really felt for her when it was finally time to leave and she just lost it.

I loved the Nigerian couple. Israel just lit up the screen everytime he appeared. I got completely caught up in their story, from the sudden health woes, to dealing with the people they left behind, etc. Ngozi was so loving and luminous at the very end, talking about how Israel is always happy and smiling. Very touching moment, there.

The Dominican baseball players didn't hold my interest quite so much, but they had their moments. The scene where they show the American guys casually talking about getting $100,000 and then switch to the Dominican guys beaming about getting $4,000 was amazing, though.

Edited by Ollie, Mar 30, 2004 @ 1:52 PM.


#2

IvySpice

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Posted Mar 30, 2004 @ 1:16 PM

Yup, I'm watching, and I'm hooked.

The Salon TV critic said that "The New Americans" was as good as "The Farmer's Wife," and I was practically climbing inside the TV with love for TFW, so I tuned in.

So far, I'm not quite as in love with this show as I was with TFW and "Hoop Dreams," which was made by the same team. But it's still riveting, especially because I'm the granddaughter of immigrants to Chicago. What an education we're getting through this show...we get to learn about the baseball farm team system, family conversations in the West Bank, refugee communities in Africa...it's like a semester of college sociology in one show.

I am most fascinated by the Nigerian family. When the nurse told Israel that he could have a heart attack at any time, I was worried sick for him and his family. I'm definitely going to be sobbing in front of the TV if they don't make it.

#3

Sensei

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Posted Mar 30, 2004 @ 1:33 PM

I found the stories fascinating. I couldn't believe the hoops the Palestinian guy was going through to bring his new wife to America. And I cheered when the Nigerian wife (Ngosi?) passed her nurses training exam. It also didn't hurt that the Dominican baseball players were super cute. I laughed when they were checking out the girls at the Burger King. I am completely hooked.

Edited by Sensei, Mar 30, 2004 @ 1:34 PM.


#4

ShaggyDiva

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Posted Mar 30, 2004 @ 5:02 PM

I checked this out because of the reviews, and I'm hooked.

I am an Isreal-Ngozi shipper. What a wonderful, loving couple. When Israel decided to take on more household responsibilities so Ngozi would have time to study, it truly warmed my heart. I hope Israel is able to find a job that utilizes his educational background. With the shortage of enginneers, his good command of English, and his obvious work ethic, I think any company would be lucky to have him. They managed to save up thousands of dollars to send back home in a relatively short time while working for $7 an hour? May be they should publish a personal financial management book and make a fortune telling all of us Americans how to live within our means.

The Palestinian couple was intriguing. Their relationship, while sincere, seemed like it has so much baggage. She probably can't help seeing this an a great opportunity to come to America and he seems like a guy at loose ends who is sort of exploring his heritage by marrying a Palestinian. I hope it works out for them.

I'n not as interested in the baseball player, but how do these ridiculously wealthy baseball teams live with themselves by exploiting these young men? Pay them as much as you'd pay white players, Dodgers!

#5

Ollie

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Posted Mar 30, 2004 @ 6:41 PM

ShaggyDiva: I thought Israel and Ngozi sent several (four?) hundred dollars, but in the exchange it translated into something with a comma in it (when they show a close-up of Israel trying to figure out funeral expenses).

Well, glad there are at least three of us watching this documentary! Hope you're all going to watch the rest, too. I'm trying to hook some of my friends and family. Good TV is something to celebrate. Well, bad TV is too, if I'm totally honest about my sad addiction to some of the worst reality TV the world has ever known!

#6

coffeemaker

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Posted Mar 31, 2004 @ 7:40 AM

I loved it when they were watching the video of Isreal and Ngozi in his home village. When his mother said "You cry like this now! there will be no tears left for my funeral".

I was blown away when I found out that Barine is Ken Saro-Wiwa's sister, and heartbroken when there was the mix-up about the number of sponsors needed for the Flores family.

#7

Sensei

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Posted Mar 31, 2004 @ 8:19 AM

This very much Must-See-TV for me. This documentary is great! I love Israel and Ngosi as well. I felt bad for Israel when he experienced racism at the hands of the police. He was so outraged and shocked instead of being de-sensitized and expecting it like most other minorities.

I loved how the house parents of the Dominican athletes visited them in the Dominican Republic. I thought that was sweet. I hope those kids make it.

The Flores family is such a messed up situation. I was doing the math with my roommate and if the father only comes home for 15 days twice a year that means in their 12 year marriage she has spent one year with her husband. Crazy. Those poor kids.

The Palestinian couple was intriguing. Their relationship, while sincere, seemed like it has so much baggage.

She seems so unhappy in many ways, however, I lost it when he was telling her to stop the car because she had to do that if a little kid ran out into the street and she told him to get out of the car and run in front of it and then we'll see if she is able to stop the car. Hee. She isn't the docile little wifey from Palestine he might have thought he was getting.

#8

Lando Lakes

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Posted Mar 31, 2004 @ 9:08 AM

Been looking for this thread since yesterday: thanks Ollie.

I love how the show depicts the extreme, crushing loneliness of the immigrant. The shot of the Flores father sitting on his mattress staring into nothing just nailed it. As a child of a mom who immigrated here 4 years before her kids, I could totally relate. Mom tells of holidays where she was on the verge of killing herself just to escape the dreaded holiday blues.

The Palestinian mother is a trip - she is so quote-worthy! If nothing else this proves that no matter how different we all are, mothers remain constant. Example, while looking on at Naima's wedding gown fitting, "God curse me for having an opinion." Or , "Just spit at me when I start to speak". Hee! I couldn't deal with the goodbye at the airport though. I was just bawling by then. I hate saying goodbye to moms, even now.

Israel's mom rocked too. She says (in paraphrase), "Why all the crying? Will you still have enough tears for when I die." Moms are such diva drag queens.

Barine, rock on and go open that restaurant.

#9

sabbie6

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Posted Mar 31, 2004 @ 10:10 AM

It's not just the few of you! I've been watching this, and forcing everyone I come across in the last few days to watch it, too. I was explaining the show to a friend yesterday, and she said, "Oh, it's like an immigration reality show?" And I just thought about how we've all forgotten that we had legitimate, educational documentary shows about "real people" long before people were eating bull testicles and hanging out with Donald Trump and calling that "reality."

Can anyone recap the first hour of last night's show?

I was really interested in the Palestinian woman's story, and wished they'd had her on more last night, although I enjoyed the other stories as well. It was so interesting to see a West Bank settlement and not hear a sad story about terrorism and oppression. Very nice.

I was also interested in the conflicting view of women they showed the Nigerians to hold. On the one hand, Barine's relatives were so in awe and proud of her for being a large, in-control black women, and I've heard of that kind of matriarchal society in some African communities. On the other hand, Israel said that if he didn't have a son, people in Africa would make fun of him for it, and then they rejoiced when they had a son. I hope other people will chime in on this great show!

#10

IvySpice

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Posted Mar 31, 2004 @ 3:33 PM

Wow. I didn't snack, I didn't pee, I didn't answer the phone, I was on the verge of tears over and over...this is great television.

Some highlights people haven't mentioned:

Hatem on the phone: "I'm not wearing the headdress! It's not Palestinian, it's from the Gulf States, and I don't care for their politics, and I'm not wearing it! How much do you want to bet I'm not going to wear it?" Cut to: shot of Hatem dancing in the headdress.

The Montanans having real Dominican food for the first time: "So THIS is what it's supposed to taste like."

Ngozi's co-worker hotel maids throwing that baby shower for her. All those women are just as poor and work just as hard as she does cleaning up after rich people, and they came together to support her with such love...That was one of those moments that made me think maybe there's some tiny shred of hope for humanity.

This is the one that just tore me up inside. The Flores' son sobbing with fear, thinking that the family would go to America without him. "No, no, we'll all go together...Papa Bernal will come too."

#11

Ollie

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Posted Mar 31, 2004 @ 3:52 PM

Yeah, LandoLakes, it was a good night for Mom humor! The Palestinian mother had her moments the first night (muttering "May God curse you and all your kind," to the apparent amusement of the young couple), but she was just hilarious last night. I cracked up at her sitting around with the other older women trash-talking men in general. Just a funny, unexpected moment there.

I loved that the host family visited the Dominican guys. That seemed like such a great visit, too. The host family seemed to embrace the families and accept the culture without being snooty or condescending in the least, which was a relief (anyone else constantly bracing for ugly American behavior?), and the families seemed genuinely pleased to meet them and show them their world. Speaking of relief, I was embarrassed how relieved I was that it wasn't one of "our" guys that was accused of sexual assault, though it was short-lived relief when I heard more about the situation and began to wonder if he was being falsely accused. Guess we'll never know, though. I felt for the host "mom" who got her mailbox blown up.

Looking forward to a three-hour "episode" tonight, but I'll be sorry to see it end.

IvySpice: oh, that was a hilarious scene with Hatem and the headdress! They picked their subjects for this so well. I love the contrast between Hatem and his wife. He's interested in his heritage, but so Americanized he doesn't have a lot of patience for certain parts of it. I wonder if she'll be able to keep it up in the face of his own resistence, or if he'll become more traditional because of her?

Edited by Ollie, Mar 31, 2004 @ 4:00 PM.


#12

IvySpice

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Posted Mar 31, 2004 @ 4:17 PM

Yup, Ollie, I was completely expecting some awful Ugly American Moments, and the Montanans made me proud. I thought all of them were so open-minded and patient and nonjudgmental. They just seemed excited to learn about everything new.

#13

Thom

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Posted Mar 31, 2004 @ 4:30 PM

I am so glad other people are watching this! I have been riveted to my TV the past two nights. I think I've cried about a dozen times in those four hours. As the child of an immigrant, a lot of the stories hit very very close to home for me. My dad was insulted and treated like crap when he first immigrated here, and over the years I saw him get treated differently because of his accent and his complexion. He passed away two months ago and watching this has made me think more about all he went through.

But besides that, it's just such good TV. They did an amazing job choosing the people they profiled. And they balance despair (like the Flores's disappointment) with really touching moments like Ngozi's baby shower. I agree with IvySpice that it gave me some hope for humanity.

#14

sabbie6

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Posted Mar 31, 2004 @ 7:07 PM

On PBS, they have a forum where a lot of people have been criticizing the show for alleged pro-Palestinian propaganda. I didn't think it was propaganda at all--I was thrilled to see the Palestinian perspective for once, and though the mother said anti-Israeli things at one point, I couldn't really blame her, as she was talking about hiding in caves while the Israeli army burned their homes. That? Is awful. Then, after coming to America, she said she thought BOTH sides were at fault for the current situation and held Israelis and Palestinians responsible.

#15

Ollie

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Posted Mar 31, 2004 @ 7:43 PM

Sabbie6: I had been wondering if people weren't upset about the somewhat one-sided presentation. I guess it would be naive to assume that the documentarians have no agenda whatsoever, but there's probably no way to present ANY information about such a volatile situation without upsetting someone. I appreciated the fact that they at least showed the Palestinian mother's disgust with both sides in the conflict, as you pointed out.

It's an amazing documentary, when you think of all of the issues it touches on. This is just part of one of several storylines, but just this is enough to spark days of conversation.

Edited by Ollie, Mar 31, 2004 @ 7:44 PM.


#16

Eme

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Posted Apr 1, 2004 @ 9:50 AM

This show was an excellent investment of time.
It was riveting to see the Palestinian couple -- he, working for Palestinian rights and she, working at an Isreali school and loving the children. Just that, appeared to really balance them in my eyes. It is not an easy situation no matter where you stand....that was made clear.
I liked that they could see past the religion/rethoric at some levels.

The Flores family made me want to weep. Not only the fact that they were not really a "couple" since he only spent one month a year with the family in Mexico for the last 12 years, but the fact that the Mother uprooted them all from a fine, seemingly happy existence (good schools, friends, after school job for the eldest) in Kansas to live in a trailer in California with fifteen family members....and getting the "opportunity" to work in the fields all day -- including Sunday! That woman really made my husband and me angry. (I am Mex-Am and he is a Mex immigrant) But 'so long as SHE was happy' all was well with the family, right? We were both furious. Their poor daughter having to give up all dreams of education for getting the opportunity to work in the fields. Wow.

Too many great stories, great editing and great moments overall.

#17

Ollie

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Posted Apr 1, 2004 @ 11:23 AM

Eme: I agree with you on the Flores family. How devastating. And it didn't really sound like Mrs. Flores was in any kind of health to be doing that kind of work anyway! I really felt for the oldest daughter and the husband. They seemed the most adversely affected (and the most aware of how badly the move would sabotage the family).

I was amazed at the apparent ease with which the Indian man met and married his wife. I had no idea such a system even existed. They didn't seem like all that happy a couple, but honestly they didn't seem way worse than a lot of couples I know that spent years choosing each other. Pretty fascinating glimpse into another way of looking at marriage.

The Palestinian couple ended up having the most overall compelling storyline, from beginning to end, I thought. There was just so much going on there already, and then add to that September 11th and the aftermath.

Having enjoying Ngozi and Israel so much in the first installment, I was disappointed to see them so little last night. It was sad to see the light in Israel dim so significantly. He was so happy and upbeat in the beginning, and he seemed so burdened and resigned to a hard life at the end.

Great documentary. So glad I caught it!

#18

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Posted Apr 2, 2004 @ 10:24 PM

Was there multiple parts to this? I think I got mine all in one shot on my affiliate (Nashville, TN) from 8-11 my time. I was brought to tears several times as well. The first time was when little Juan Flores was saying goodbye to his teacher in Mexico. Whe he thanked her for teaching him to read and write and stuff, I totally lost it. I thought it was sweet that his teacher in Kansas offered to be his guardian till the schoolyear was over. Of course, I cried when his sister had to leave school. That shot of her Asian teacher crying made me totally loose it. She knew of all the potential being wasted. I wanted to kick her mother so hard.

Israel and his wife were so fun. It has to be hard though, being that they hardly see each other with their opposite work schedules.

The Mary Kay lady bought a cute house.

The Palestinian couple was interesting. She's tired of being an activist though from what I could see.

#19

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Posted Apr 4, 2004 @ 1:00 AM

I was furious with Sra. Flores, too, but consider: she had spent years and years managing the household and the kids on her own, in very poor circumstances, and was definitely unhappy in Kansas. Everybody probably thought it was her turn. Remember how protective the oldest daughter was when her father suggested Mom could work when they got to America? I was quite impressed by how the family, generally speaking, talked things out with each other, particularly the was the oldest daughter talked with her father. He was always the adult, but you got the feeling they could talk about almost anything. My initial heartbreak came when the grandfather didn't get a visa, though. That said, he said early on that he didn't really want to go to America. But the though of leaving that sweet old man behind by himself...Sniff!

Oh, and the father telling his son that he didn't want him to wear tennis shoes because they would make him walk like a girl was hilarious.

#20

Marla Singer

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Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 10:56 AM

I watched the second segment yesterday (on TiVo). I just about dies when the young Flores boy asked his father in tears if her would be left behind in Mexico.

Israel and Ngozi are the most interesting part of the show for me. Her baby shower was hysterical.

#21

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Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 2:04 PM

Yup, Ollie, I was completely expecting some awful Ugly American Moments, and the Montanans made me proud. I thought all of them were so open-minded and patient and nonjudgmental. They just seemed excited to learn about everything new.


This was heartwarming to me! What a great show. I watched it all!

I felt very sorry for the Flores'. They clearly made a bad decision. And Ngozi is adorable. Get that woman to IMG models post haste.

#22

Thom

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Posted Apr 5, 2004 @ 7:52 PM

Was there multiple parts to this?

Jer2002, the documentary was seven hours total - two 2-hour parts, then the 3-hour final installment. It aired on three consecutive nights in my area.

I also felt really bad for the Flores family, especially the eldest daughter. I guess things can always get better, and I hope they do.

I'm really glad I watched this but at the same time, it depressed me a little because this is just a small slice of the immigration stories that are out there, and a lot of them end up much worse.

#23

ciscokidinsf

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Posted Apr 9, 2004 @ 11:32 AM

Gosh... this show had me completely engrossed... I am also in the boat with the disagreement on the Flores family... I don't think it was fair for the WHOLE family to move to California just for Sra. Flores to 'feel better'... plus, I don't remember they saying that she had a sister in California at the beginning of the show, but I think I missed the first 30 minutes of show #1.

I also feel bad for the Indian couple, had to go back to India after the boom was over... And amazed on how they met... so a computer service made a match in your hometown? (because they did mentioned they had met only once before) or did I miss something?

The show just made barely a couple of references to Sept. 11 (at the home of the Palestinian couple and the 'minute of silence' at the NY harbor) but I just didn't understand why the palestinian lady was saying that at that point she didn't care about America, or her greencard... I wasn't sure what caused that. because she says that BEFORE his husband's office is attacked, right?

My favorites: Ngozi, Israel and Barine... Go Ogoni people! they sure had their act together, Barine has 3 jobs and a house, I'm impressed.

The baseball story with the Dominicans was good... and I did not expect that Jose married his mormon wife. (I wanted to see that family reunion in the island, oh boy)

The most amazing part: none of the couples divorced or split.. I was expecting that, but didn't happen.

The last part... I've been to Ciudad Juarez, at the consulate (I stayed a block away from the hotel where the Flores were staying at, so it was a familiar sight)... and hated the whole experience. Hated the city, hated the consulate even more. Hope never to have to go back there again.