New York, NY–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–June 17, 2004–In some ways, it’s a familiar American story: an influx of illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico to do work the locals won’t; a flourishing “low-wage” labor market that depends on them; rising tensions with the resident Anglo population; charges and counter-charges of lawlessness and racism; organizing and counter-organizing – then a violent hate crime that tears a community apart. But this isn’t the story of a California, Texas or other Southwestern town. It’s the story of Farmingville, New York, on Long Island.
And what is happening in this New York City suburb, as captured in Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini’s powerful new documentary, Farmingville, provides a dramatic glimpse of the new front lines in America’s struggle over immigration and national identity.
Sandoval and Tambini’s Farmingville, which won a Special Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, has its broadcast premiere on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 at 10 p.m., kicking off the 17th season of the P.O.V. series on PBS (check local listings). Farmingville is one of four P.O.V. 2004 Election Issue Specials, along with Bill’s Run: A Political Journey in Rural Kansas (June 29), War Feels Like War (July 6) and Last Man Standing: Politics Texas Style (July 20). The award-winning P.O.V. is American television’s most-watched independent documentary showcase.
In the late 1990s, some 1,500 Mexican workers moved to the leafy, suburban town of Farmingville, population 15,000. Many were illegal immigrants, and most found ready employment in Suffolk County’s thriving landscaping, construction, and restaurant industries. This didn’t prevent many of the town’s citizens from being shocked at the sudden influx of employment-hungry Spanish-speaking men crowding their street corners and over-crowding rented houses in their neighborhoods. Farmingville, after all, is about as far from a border town, or traditional employer of immigrant labor, as you can get.
Farmingville meticulously reveals the underlying forces, and the human impact, of what has become the largest influx of Mexican workers in U.S. history – a migration that economic globalization is carrying beyond border areas and major cities and into the small cities and towns of America. The filmmakers spent nearly a year in Farmingville, talking to all sides and filming the conflict as it unfolded in legal and political maneuverings, community organizing, vigilante action and, most tragically, violence. Farmingville achieves a remarkable intimacy with many of the principal players in the town’s drama, who share their personal hopes and fears, revealing just how profoundly local all politics, even global politics, are.
Tambini and Sandoval explore the conflict as it plays out as an ongoing clash of personalities and perspectives. Residents such as Margaret Bianculli-Dyber, who helps found and lead a group called Sachem Quality of Life (SQL), blame the Mexican day workers for bringing noise, overcrowding, and a crime wave to the area. Tempers boil as local officials deny any increase in crime and plead powerlessness to act against the workers. Other citizens, such as Ed Hernandez of Brookhaven Citizens for Peaceful Solutions and Brother Joe Madsen, counsel tolerance for the plight of the day workers. The contractors, restaurateurs and homeowners who hire the workers claim the local economy would come to a standstill without the Mexicans’ willingness to do hard, low-paying and sometimes dangerous labor. The workers, meanwhile, face rising incidents of verbal and physical harassment.
Then a vicious crime brings the conflict fully to the surface. Lured to a basement under pretext of a job, Israel Pérez and Magdaleno Escamilla are brutally stabbed and beaten. It’s the kind of racist violence one might expect in another place and time, but not in a Long Island town like Farmingville. Two young white men with ties to racist groups are later charged and convicted of hate-based attempted murder for the attack, which draws national media attention. Ominously, however, the shock of the incident serves to polarize and harden feelings rather than bring the community together.
A compromise approach that would create a hiring hall in hopes of ameliorating the problems is derailed by community resistance and the involvement of controversial national anti-immigrant groups, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The bad feelings escalate as SQL and other groups adopt the strident views and rhetoric of Glenn Spencer’s American Patrol and Barbara Coe’s California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which see a Mexican conspiracy to seize control of much of the U.S.
The day workers themselves, led by immigrant activist Matilde Parada, organize a mutual help association called Human Solidarity to counter the harassment, fight for their rights, and reach out to the community. The workers come together on one of their most shared cultural traditions – soccer – and, in one of the conflict’s few bright spots, employ their hard-earned expertise in landscaping in exchange for permission to play on a local school’s athletic fields. The fields are groomed and a different kind of interaction is fostered when the workers joyously take the field. Yet despite the hopeful signs of conciliation and progress, Farmingville ends without resolution; at the film’s conclusion we find the community still struggling with a situation to which no clear solution seems imminent.
Farmingville is a complex, emotional portrait of an American town in rapid transition from a relatively homogenous community to a 21st-century village. “We wanted to tell this story from the inside out,” says co-producer Sandoval, “to capture the story as it happened. We shot over 200 hours of footage, in two languages, to reveal the personal stories behind the headlines and sound bites.”
“This is the latest battle over the American Dream,” adds co-producer Tambini, “one that puts every American town on the front line of deciding just who shares – and who controls – that dream.”
About the Filmmakers:
Carlos Sandoval, Co-Producer/Co-Director/ Writer
Carlos Sandoval is a lawyer and a writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times. His play, The Wolfman and His Wife, is slated for production by the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis. Sandoval has worked on immigration and refugee affairs as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, and as a program officer for the Twentieth Century Fund (now the Century Foundation). Of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, Sandoval grew up in Southern California and is a graduate of Harvard and the University of Chicago School of Law.
Catherine Tambini, Co-Director/ Co-Producer/Cinematographer
Catherine Tambini’s credits include co-producing the Oscar(R)-nominated documentary, Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse, producing director Richard Kaplan’s Varian and Putzi: A Twentieth Century Tale, and the off-Broadway play, Two Good Boys. Tambini has also worked as a production manager on HBO’s Connie & Ruthie and Every Room in the House, and on the documentary, Best Man. She assisted in the production design of such well-known Hollywood films as The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, True Colors, Steel Magnolias, and The Secret of My Success.
Catherine Tambini and Carlos Sandoval
Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini
Catherine Tambini and Karola Ritter
John Bloomgarden and Mary Manhardt
Peter Miller and John Zecca
Farmingville is funded by generous grants from: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, The Horace and Amy Hagedorn Foundation, New York State Council for the Arts, The Bishop John R. McGann Mission of Caring Fund of Catholic Health Services of Long Island, The Soros Documentary Fund, The Long Island Community Foundation, The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, Moxie Films, Avid Technologies, and generous individual donors.
Festivals & Awards:
— Sundance Film Festival (2004) – Special Jury Award: Best Documentary
— San Diego Latino Film Festival (2004) – Best Documentary
— CineFestival (2004) – Best Documentary
— RiverRun International Film Festival (2004) – Human Rights Award
— Full Frame Documentary Festival (2004)
— Arizona International Film Festival (2004)
— South by Southwest Film Festival (2004)
ITVS funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the PBS series Independent Lens. ITVS was established by an historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have helped to revitalize the relationship between the public and public television. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.itvs.org. Farmingville was produced in association with the Independent Television Service.
Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) supports the development, production, acquisition and distribution of non-commercial educational and cultural television that is representative of Latino people, or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to the public broadcasting stations and other public telecommunication entities. By acting as minority consortium, LPB provides a voice to the diverse Latino community throughout the United States.
Now entering its 17th season on PBS, P.O.V. is the first and longest-running series on television to feature the work of America’s most innovative documentary storytellers. Bringing over 200 award-winning films to millions nationwide, and now a new Web-only series, P.O.V.’s Borders, P.O.V. has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent non-fiction media to build new communities in conversation about today’s most pressing social issues.
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Support for P.O.V. is provided by Starbucks Coffee Company. Starbucks has a rich tradition of supporting the arts and independent film and celebrates the fact that numerous points of view can be discussed over a good cup of coffee. Starbucks is committed to offering the highest quality coffee in grocery stores nationwide.
American Documentary, Inc. (http://www.americandocumentary.org)
American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) is a multimedia company dedicated to creating, identifying and presenting contemporary stories that express opinions and perspectives rarely featured in mainstream media outlets. Through two divisions, P.O.V. and Active Voice, AmDoc is a catalyst for public culture, developing collaborative strategic engagement activities around socially relevant content on television, on line and in community settings. These activities are designed to trigger action, from dialogue and feedback, to educational opportunities and community participation. Farmingville is a co-production of American Documentary, Inc.
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