Movie Review: Farmingville
If someone were to ask me what I think about illegal immigration, I would have a hard time figuring out where to get started. Honestly, I have never really thought about the issue of illegal immigration, and it is not something that directly affects me in any way. However, I am fond of documentary films in which political and social climates are analyzed, and Farmingville (2004), directed by Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini is one such documentary. Moreover, the issue of illegal immigration that this documentary film raises is also a good debate, especially since it is a political and social issue where the lines between right and wrong are quite blur. Not only has the political and social climate of a small American town been analyzed in this documentary film, but it has been analyzed from a blue colar level through the eyes of the townspeople who just want what is best for their families, regardless of where they are from.
Sandoval and Tambini’s documentary film, Farmingville (2004), shows us how immigration can tear apart a normal suburban community. The film in centered in the community of Farmingville, which lies in the middle of New York and the Hamptons. Farmingville has a history of being a quiet, middle-class community, and until 2000, would not have been considered as a part of the heated debate over illegal immigration. However, in 2000, two white men ended up killing two Mexican workers in Farmingville due to the emergence of a conflict. Sandoval, who formerly worked as a lawyer in New York, moved to Farmingville the following year to make this documentary film, although he had no previous filmmaking experience then. In Farmingville (2004), Sandoval and Tambini do not focus on just one side of the issue, and perhaps that is why their argument is so balanced. Farmingville is inhabited by the wealthy who own their own homes and the immigrants who work as laborers during the day, both of whom have their own activists.
Farmingville (2004) is a powerful documentary about the large numbers of undocumented - or illegal, for those who prefer to call them that - Mexican immigrants who had started arriving in Farmingville all of sudden. To those who work in the anti-immigration department, this documentary film may seem as if it is a propaganda about immigrants, especially since the film shows the immigrants as funny, respectful, and well-behaved individuals, while their opponents are the opposite. As mentioned, Sandoval and Tambini present us with both sides of this political and social issue in their documentary film. The film also shows us what most of us would call racist attitude of the Sachem Quality of Life (SQL), a group that is against the immigrants living in Farmingville. The film shows the aggressive and hostile behavior of the members of the group against immigrants, who are accosted, accused, and berated In English, even though they do not speak the language.
Sandoval and Tambini’s documentary film shows us the many values that the illegal immigrants and the townspeople were competing against each other for. While it may be argued that native townspeople of Farmingville believed their land was being invaded by these immigrants, but they were really fighting for what they abstractedly perceived as America. The odd thing about this conflict over illegal immigration, as depicted in the film, is that even the immigrants were fight for this very same value as well, which included having a life. To a majority of the white residents of Farmingville, these immigrants were foreign in their white world, their mere presence was threatening to them and to them it seemed as if their perfect American Dream was being disrupted by these aliens. However, the truth is that the American Dream had already been disrupted, and the Mexican workers were just victims of fear, hatred, and ignorance.
As we see in Farmingville (2004), surely some of the residents of Farmingville had racist tendencies, but not all of them are bad people. Apparently, their racist tendencies stem from the feeling of being abandoned by the systems. They were simply pissed off that they were losing their jobs and could no longer afford the very American Dream they were fighting for. This may have forced them to see their new “neighbors” as a threat. Thus, the underlying of motif of the opposition that we see in the film is Americanism. Again, however, the immigrants workers also see Farmingville, and America as a whole, as the land of opportunity where they can work and earn for their families. This certainly is close to Americanism as it can be. So the bottom line is that the values that both the groups share is the same, they are merely competing because of the political, racial, and social tension between them.
It is arguable that the workers did not do the right thing by coming over to the United States illegally. Sure they did violate the law but the law cannot be placed above morals. Sure it would be better if they had immigrated legally, but perhaps they had no choice but to come over illegally because of the extremely harsh and strict immigration process. If I was in their place with no other options to make a living for my family, I most likely do the same thing they did. I can only assume that most of us would be as angry as the locals of Farmingville if we found out that their community had a huge influx of illegal immigrants. It is apparent that Sandoval and Tambini made this documentary film in hopes of making the townspeople, and us Americans in general, since we all share the same values, we should find a way to co-exist.
Perhaps this is where social workers can play their part. In his book, The Politics of Social Work, Fred Powell writes that social work operates in a world that is considerably global and international. Of course, this clearly applies to the work with asylum seeker, immigrants, and refugees. The rapidly growing literature on globalization and social work clearly links the practice of social work to issues of citizenship, comprising of the inclusion and participation of citizens in a civic society. Illegal immigrants may not be considered as legal citizens of the United States, but there are various social work practice principles that can resolve the conflict over illegal immigrants. The most prominent social work practice among them is social inclusion, which involves helping these immigrants acquire a legal status to empower them and to help them legally participate in the American society, thus building respect and trust. According to Powell, civic social workers can only function with the state’s support, and this is definitely necessary when it comes to resolving the conflict over illegal immigrants.
Powell, Fred W. The Politics of Social Work (Sage Politics Texts). 1st ed. New York: SAGE Publications Ltd., 2001. Print.
Sandoval, Carlos, dir. Farmingville. Dir. Catherine Tambini. 2004. Film. 2 Apr 2013.