(Arthur Hiller, 1969)
This little known independent film from the tail end of the 1960s deserves elevation into wider transnational and global discussions of children in film for a number of reasons. It deals with a Puerrto Rican New York resident widower who, concerned for the economic future and survival of his two sons, concocts a plan to have the boys arrive in a small boat off the coast of Florida, the aim, that they will convince authorities that they are sad refugees from Castro’s Cuba. The children, however, eventually undermine the ruse, as all they desire is to be with their father (popi in colloquial Spanish), and cannot constrain their capacities in New Yorkian-Puerto Rican street English and Spanish. This narrative sheds comic light on the USA’s differential migration policies to people from Latin America: Cubans are favoured and accepted in the Cold War context, other Latinos are not, including the residents of Puerto Rico and its diaspora, despite their ostensible US citizenship. More importantly, the film invites discussion of just how much familial, gendered, racial/ethnic, classed, and nationally coded weight can be placed on the bodies and psyches of children, especially immigrant children, in order to provide them with access to the so-called American Dream. As a key cultural representation of US latinization in the broader history of US cinema, the film also contributes to a desimplification of the notion of a monolithic “Latino” or “Hispanic” while emphasising how the orphaned nation-less child trope resonates across Latino sectors as a key vector around which US status is configured and imagined.
This film is being discussed by Dr Angelos Koutsourakis.
To see a trailer of this film, click here
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