SXSW 2000 Film Festival and Conference

Exiles in New York

Dir/Scr: Eduardo Machado; Prod: Betty Ann Besch Solinger; DP: Todd Liebler; Ed: Davey Frankel; Cast: Elzbieta Czyzewska, Eileen Galindo, Heather Hill, Rogelio Martinez, Jim Simpson, Ed Vassallo.

35mm, 88 min., 1999 (RP)

Eager Juan (Quintero) from Guatemala is willing to work hard to earn everything he's heard about the American dream. Privileged English chap Olin (Courtney) lands in Spanish Harlem in search of his father's past, only to find that daddy has cut off the cash flow. Illegal and in need of resources, both men cross paths when they encounter the same well-meaning women, a team of armchair lefties who spout platitudes like, "The worst form of colonialism: The oppressed come to the oppressor!" and help the two men get established in America, while confronting their hopes and desires. Todd Leibler's frenetic cinematography has its finger on the racing pulse of NYC and captures the sense of overwhelming culture shock that even native Americans sometimes feel on their first visit to the Big Apple. His quick-cut montages of NYC's world-famous Halloween parades are the film's best work. And while the story has as much up its sleeve as a street hustler, the ultimately grim tale relies too much on a shocking plot twist (albeit a great one) to see it through. In the end, this film seems less an exploration of hearts in exile than a fine case for tougher immigration laws.

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