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Nuyorican Dream, Movie Review Example

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Movie Review

The 2000 documentary film Nuyorican Dream is directed by Laurie Collyer and  tells the story of an immigrant Puerto Rican family living in New York City. The hardship of the family’s life is related to issues such as race, ethnicity, language and class. The title of the film itself shows the major tension in the film’s story. “Nuyorican” is the Puerto Rican way to say “New York”, while the term “dream” clearly means the American dream. The family that moved to the United States in the story, in hopes of improving their life, are instead faced with problems related to poverty, cultural differences and, in the case of the narrator, sexuality, as the narrator of the story, who is also part of the family featured in the film, is a homosexual.

One of the key problems faced by the family of Nuyorican Dream is that of class. Attempting to improve one’s life by going to America is a common story: this is the American Dream, where individuals think that America offers immediate opportunity. The film instead shows that there are fundamental boundaries that exist in American society. It is difficult to break the cycle of poverty, as the brother of the narrator is continually sent to prison for criminal activity. As the narrator of the film states, he is the only one to have completed high school and college in his family. In essence, the film contrasts the “dream” of American richness and unlimited opportunity with the reality of poverty, class differences and racial and cultural differences.

Many of the themes experienced by the family of Nuyorican Dream are similar to the experiences presented by the intellectual Richard Rodriguez in his article “Searching for Roots in a Changing World.”  For example, Rodriguez talks about a split between the world of success, i.e., the academic world, and the world of his parents. But what Rodriguez discovers is that the “world of success” also means a loss. He writes: “The peculiar status of being a “Chicano intellectual” makes me grow restless at the thought that I have lost at least as much as I have gained through education.” (487) Rodriguez, with these words, argues that the American dream of professional success is itself an illusion: it is only a particular world with its own particular values. By succeeding in this world, Rodriguez feels that he has lost the world of his family. The cultural differences and values of the two worlds, expressed in the different languages of Spanish and English, reflects the gap that exists between them.

In Nuyorican Dream, this same gap is expressed. The inability of the central family of the story to succeed shows that they are trapped in a world isolated from the promise of success. As the narrator of the film suggests, the American system is not designed to create change, but rather “perpetuate” the differences between classes and races. This would explain why he was the only member of his family to “succeed”: it is an incredibly difficult process. Rodriguez expresses this same sentiment, as in his article he must essentially abandon his old Chicano identity to become a definition of success.

The film Nuyorican Dream therefore expresses some of the fundamental social problems and conflicts that make up American society. These are problems that are economic and cultural. Even if one succeeds economically, they will have to conform to the dominant values of society. Much like Rodriguez writes, if someone is a minority in America, this means they will lose their original culture. But as Nuyorican Dream itself says, even though a particular culture of the minority may not be lost, this culture can be destroyed by poor economic conditions. The illusion of the American Dream is what is most clearly communicated in this film.

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