Reflections

SXSW 2000 Film Festival and Conference

The American Tapestry

Dir: Gregory Nava; Prod: Barbara Martinez Jitner; Ed: Sandy Guthrie; Music: John Adams.

35mm, 96 min., 1999 (TP)

In weaving The American Tapestry, Gregory Nava (Mi Familia, Selena) sets out to capture some hint of the diversity that defines the modern family in the United States. Such a feat could conceivably mean profiling all 250 million citizens, but Nava goes about his mission by focusing on five carefully selected individuals. The men and women he interviews are immigrants to the United States or residents on the move. Murray Schneider left Poland in 1920 and arrived to Lady Liberty's open arms on Ellis Island. A decade later on the opposite coast, policies restrictive of Chinese immigration forced Li Keng Gee to betray her family history to gain entry. The American values seem equally diluted for Janie Chatman, a black Southerner who moves north to Chicago to escape racism in Alabama. On the Mexican side of the Rio Grande border, Eva Canseco dreams of opportunity and prepares to risk everything to bring her family across. Interwoven with these four incredible tales stands the very white Walter McNall and his wife. Watching the socially conscious documentary, we can easily distance ourselves from the bitterness and suspicion the McNalls feel for the ethnic development around them. But when it's over, The American Tapestry invites a degree of introspection that reveals as much about ourselves as it does about its heroic subjects.

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