I saw the Visitor this weekend which is the second film from director Tom McCarthy. His first being The Station Agent (another indie film).
As our country is watching more every day about the unraveling of the Bush administration and their lies, this movie is an interesting film to watch. The Visitor introduces people from two completely different worlds. One, an immigrant who is in the United States illegally and has been for 9 years and the other is a frumpy college professor, a widower and a curmudgeon who has retreated into himself as he barely goes about his day.
Walter, the college professor, comes back to New York City from Connecticut College to give a paper at NYU. He goes to his apartment which he has kept for 25 years in the east village to find it occupied with Tarek(Syrian) and his girlfriend Zainab (Senegalese). Once the shock wears off, Walter allows them to stay there until they can find another place. Walter and Tarek strike up an unlikely friendship over music. Tarek is a drummer and Walter has been trying to play classic piano to keep the connection with his wife.
We watch Walter slowly come out of his shell as he starts to connect with people again. Tarek gets arrested and is sent into a detention center because he is here illegally. Walter takes up this cause to try and get him released. He finds himself frustrated and at a loss. Tarek's mother comes to NYC to help her son although there isn't much she can do because she is also here illegally living in Michigan.
Walter employs an immigration lawyer who tells him that his uncle was deported after living in the US for 23 years after raising a family here. Tarek's father sat in a Syrian jail for 7 years for writing an article against the government and died 2 months after being released. Tarek's mother makes the comment that the US is like Syria, sadly. Tarek's frustration rises as he says that there are over 300 people in the detention center that can be moved or deported at a moments notice. These people aren't terrorists because the terrorists have money and support so they wouldn't find themself in a deportation center.
Immigration in a post 9/11 world and how the Bush administration has treated people who have come to the United States for a better life is abysmal. There is plenty to debate. The people who get here and have raised families get deported or kids who came with their parents and no nothing else but living in the United States and are finding themselves deported or hard working people who would be happy to pay taxes or work jobs that the majority of Americans won't take don't deserve to be tossed into a detention center for years before learning their fate. I am aghast how we have treated the people who have come here as Walter is in the movie.
One of the other highlights of the film is the photography. The movie really captures NYC. Even the fact that Walter still has an apartment in the east village after 25 years. The merchants on the street, the cafes, the neighborhood, the subways, the immigrant culture. The movie unfolds slowly but the statement about immigration is very powerful. Another insight into the post 9/11 world and how the Bush administration went down a path that I only hope can be changed in the future.