September 22, 2000
The City (La Ciudad), the feature film debut of writer/director David Riker, is a hauntingly beautiful collection of stories about love, hope, and loss amongst Latin American immigrants living in New York. Set in the present day, The City takes us inside this community of newcomers, from countries including Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Although the film is set in New York, it is a wake-up call to all of us who give little thought to those who toil in sweatshops, work on construction sites, pick fruit, bus tables, and tend lawns across boomtown America. By getting into their lives, earning their trust and telling their stories, Riker has created a powerful and incisive drama about the lineliness, displacement, and economic hardship these immigrants face in the new and overwhelming world of the City.
The film is made up of four separate stories: a group of day laborers vie for the job of gathering bricks from an abandoned lot; a young man having just arrived from Mexico meets and falls in love with a girl from his home village at a Sweet 15 party, only to lose her in the maze of a housing project; a homeless puppeteer dreams of a better life for his daughter; and a desperate seamstress with an ailing daughter back home tries to get her pay from her sweatshop boss. Ultimately, The City is a story about courage and strength, hope and dreams, and reminds us that our country's newest immigrants, people who we often see daily but do not really "see," are not that different from those of us who have been here longer.
In creating The City, director Riker strove for authenticity both in the stories he told and in the characters he portrayed. He spent five years developing the film within the Latin American community, and chose to cast non-actors in almost every role. Because most of the performers are themselves struggling immigrants, they bring a priceless understanding and realism to the film
The City began as a short film, which won the 1995 Student Academy Award for Best Dramatic Short and the Director's Guild of America Best Student Film Award. Expanded into the four-part feature, The City was the surprise hit at the Toronto and San Sebastian Film Festivals; played to sold-out audiences at the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival where 400 people were turned away; won the Best Film by a Non-Latin American Director Award at the Havana International Film Festival; received Taos Talking Pictures Festival Land Grant Award; the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival Nestor Almendros Prize; and Best Narrative Feature at South by Southwest Film Festival.
The City will be presented on KPBS, September 27, at 9:30 p.m.