And the Pursuit of Happiness (Free Screening!)

Commissioned for a series of television programs marking the centenary of the Statue of Liberty, this product of Malle's three-month trip across the United States discovers Russian actors, Vietnamese physicians, and Nicaraguan dictators, among others. A companion piece to God's Country, which followed primarily third- or fourth-generation Americans, And the Pursuit of Happiness looks at the dreams of those who have recently arrived. Its focus on a then new wave of immigration-Laotian, Cambodian, Ethiopian, and Salvadoran-heralded the first time many of these groups were documented onscreen, and highlighted the changing aspects of U.S. society. The film is fascinating, not for how different its 1986 is from 2005, but for what is the same: Egyptians in Los Angeles who speak of being stereotyped as Arab terrorists, a scion of a wealthy dictator (Nicaragua's Somoza, in fact) cataloging the family's new suburban splendor, or an English-language class of Southeast Asian refugees, all repeating “Let's go to Wendy's and have a hamburger.”

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