by Sara Farizan
BOSTON- Artscope magazine had the good fortune to attend an advance screening of Alexandra Pelosi’s new documentary Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip. In a time where immigration has become a very politicized and Fox News buzzword topic, filmmaker Pelosi has managed to remind us what it in fact does mean to be an American.
Inspired by her husband’s recent U.S. citizenship, Pelosi traveled all fifty states, visiting countless citizen oath ceremonies, and interviewed people from all over the world on their first day as a United States citizen.
Pelosi, an established filmmaker with documentaries like Emmy winner “Journeys with George” and “The Trials of Ted Haggard” to name a few, has set out to make a positive homage to America’s welcoming nature. Pelosi says, “Seeing America through the eyes of our newest citizens makes you realize all that we take for granted. The American Dream still exists, and if we want to keep that dream alive and keep this country colorful, we just need to make sure that they continue to be welcome.”
As a one woman camera crew, Pelosi captures her subjects without judgment and in such an unassuming manner that the interviewees are at their most natural, their most candid and, in many cases, more than willing to list all the reasons they left their native country to live in a country that is not always so appreciative of recent arrivals.
The audience will stumble upon a ceremony at a national park in Nebraska or in a high school gymnasium in Maine and come face to face with people who were once refugees in Iraq, a woman from the Philippines who dubs 9-1-1 as her favorite thing about America, or a new citizen from Belarus who claims Disney World as the place she loves most.
Pelosi intersperses her interviews and ceremony activities with interviews from some well known naturalized citizens like Madeline Albright, Henry Kissinger, Arianna Huffington and Gene Simmons of KISS fame. America is a country that was born from immigrants, but this is a notion that many of our fellow countrymen have a tendency to forget. Pelosi and her subjects do an excellent job of reminding us.
Food truck workers from Afghanistan say their favorite thing about America is freedom… and girls. In a place like Afghanistan, something as simple as a couple holding hands was once forbidden.
Twin teenage girls from China, affected by China’s one child policy, would be facing a much different life, perhaps separated from one another, were they to stay in their homeland.
A gay man from Iran, a place where homosexuality is outlawed and sometimes punishable by death, relishes in the fact that all people in love have the right to be happy as he watches couples stroll in New York City.
The film also notes that many immigrants are now no longer in just big cities or on the coasts, but settling in rural Mid-Western towns, the bible belt and suburbs that look very different from their original homes. Pelosi is careful not to make her film political, but rather showcase emotional, hilarious and tear-jerking moments in the day of a life of a person who has wanted something for so long and finally attained it.
The film aptly airs this July 4th 9 p.m. ET with repeat play dates on July 6th, 9th, 11th, 14th, and 19th.