The New Americans - Episode 1
Kartemquin Films • 54m
Directed by Laura Angelica Simon • Documentary • 2003 • 55 minutes
We first meet the Nwidor and Lawani families, members of a small tribal minority known as the Ogonis, in a refugee camp in Benin, West Africa. The Ogoni people had opposed Nigeria’s military government and the Shell Oil Corporation, which for years had been permitted to drill oil in their homeland, heedless of the environmental damage. Eventually, the military cracked down on the protesters, executing Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others. The wave of violence that followed forced many Ogonis to flee to refugee camps in neighboring Benin. Israel Nwidor lives in a small tent with his wife, Ngozi, and two children. “When I get to America, I want to lie on a good bed. I just want to have a nice sleep,” says the ever-optimistic Israel. Trained as a chemical engineer, he was unable to get a job in Nigeria’s oil industry because of discrimination against the Ogonis. “I will be accepted in America,” he says, confidently. “Today, blacks living in the northern part of America are free and not discriminated against.” Barine Wiwa-Lawani is the sister of the slain Ogoni activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa. Educated in England, she ran a thriving catering school and two restaurants in Nigeria that were bulldozed by the government, forcing her to flee. Dominicans Ricardo Rodriguez and José Garcia are highly prized baseball prospects in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. In this episode, we get to know these two young men—Ricardo, a shy but disciplined country boy, and José, a talented and charismatic player who splits time between baseball and five girlfriends. Naima Saadeh is a young Palestinian woman who falls in love with and marries Hatem Abudayyeh, a first-generation Palestinian-American man, after a whirlwind courtship. With one brother dead and another imprisoned...
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