Four for the Fourth: Movies That Celebrate America!
- Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Will these men form one nation or a nation of sovereign states? While the legislative battle rages, Jefferson and Adams sing about how they “burn” for their spouses.
Although it retells history in engaging fashion, 1776 is not suitable for family viewing. This 1972 film is, in fact, bawdy at times, and is rated “PG” for language. It includes several flippant uses of God’s name and some sexual humor.
GOLDEN DOOR: The Journey
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
— Emma Lazarus
Our nation’s story is a story of immigrants—people who came to this country in search of something they couldn’t obtain in their homelands. Some came for the promise of material prosperity, some for the opportunity to make their own way in a rugged land, and some for the chance to worship freely.
Golden Door, an Italian film released last year to unexpectedly strong results on the art-house circuit, follows one man’s journey from Sicily to America. In the film’s opening shot, Salvatore and his son climb a mountain and seek guidance from a statue of the Virgin Mary about whether to leave his village and make the journey to America. “What should we do? Go or stay” he asks the icon.
His prayers are answered when another son arrives and presents him with photos, ostensibly of America, where money grows on trees and giant onions are hauled in wheelbarrows.
“Blessed be the Lord,” Salvatore says. He dreams of a land of great material blessings—a country where money falls from the sky and he swims in rivers of milk. The local clothier tells Salvatore, “God will bless you,” while another man says, “God will guide you there.”
Aboard the ship, Salvatore will strike up a friendship with Lucy, a beautiful, mysterious Englishwoman about whom rumors swirl. Does a boyfriend await her in America? Has she been jilted? If no one is there to meet her at Ellis Island, will she be able to enter America?
Their budding romance is a bright spot amid the uncertainties of the journey. In one memorable sequence, the ship encounters rough seas and the violent consequences are harrowing. It’s a grim sequence that reminds us of the sacrifices made by so many who brought nothing but their hopes to this country, sometimes at great peril.
They arrive at Ellis Island, but can see America only through the fog. Later, they peer through a high window at the land outside. Golden Door shows us their reaction to the sight of the new country, but never allows viewers to see it. It remains a place grounded in the imaginations of the characters and the viewers.
Upon arriving at Ellis Island, however, the characters’ journey is far from over. To enter the country, proposals are made, bargains are struck, and tests are undertaken to keep out the infirm and those lacking in intellect. After surviving so much, some will not be admitted and some will choose not to enter. But for those who do enter through the Golden Door, opportunity awaits.
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