And the Pursuit of Happiness
And this is the first documentary on the list. And the Pursuit of Happiness is directed by Louis Malle, the famed French director.
Happiness is about the immigrant experience in America circa 1986. Malle himself was an immigrant. The biggest impression I received was how little things had changed since the late '80s. The same problems still plague us. In many ways this looks like it was made recently with the exception of the '80s fashions.
There's one telling moment when an illegal Mexican immigrant meets an official at the border as he's being sent back. They shake hands, talk. The man says he will cross the border again. At this moment the immigrant question is larger than ever. There are scenes of Muslim immigrants and their adjustments. Seeing these scenes one has to wonder what we've learned in the last two decades plus. Has anything changed?
One of the immigrants featured is the family of the former dictator of Nicaragua, General Samosa. In a weird scene the General's nephew plays with his kids in an American suburb. He looks just like any other dad in America flying a kite with his son.
Malle doesn't put any stylish flourishes in this script. The director's style in this case is present through the choices he makes. Malle lets the humanity of his subjects shine through. It's refreshing to see this old school documentary, back before everyone want to be a reality star or a youtube sensation. These people simply say how they feel. There's no marketing strategy behind it.
But times have changed and documentary reflects the time it was made. Still this movie is worth checking out to see how things have changed. And how they haven't.