44 Best Immigrant Stories to Watch (Page 3)

This earnest documentary is about filmmaker and actress Maryam Zaree's journey to unravel the truth about her birth. Her parents are part of a generation of Iranian revolutionaries who were jailed, many executed, and now have taken exile in Europe. The torture and difficult prison conditions they experienced are cause for so much trauma that Maryam, born in prison, has not been told anything about her birth. Her mom, now Germany's first foreign-born mayor, cannot get past tears to tell a story that Maryam is determined to know. 

Her mom is not the only one who is unable to tell the story, as Maryam's quest uncovers more silence. In the end, Born in Evin is as much about the question of "is the truth worth getting told?" as it is about the truth itself. It's a heartfelt exploration of trauma, both for the generation that experienced it and for the generation that follows.

Nisha, the daughter of conservative Pakistani immigrants in Oslo, finds ways to secretly go out with her Norwegian friends. She goes to parties, plays basketball, and dates.

One day, Nisha’s father catches her with a boy, bringing what he perceives as a great shame to the family. Nisha’s delicate balance is broken, and her family acts drastically: without telling her about their plans, they move her to Pakistan.

What Will People Say is based on its director and writer Iram Haq’s own experience being kidnapped to Pakistan and going back to Norway at age 16.

Hassan Fazili and Nargis Fazili are two filmmakers who, faced with death threats, escape their home in Afghanistan and start a journey to Europe that millions of others have taken over the past few years. But unlike most others, the Fazilis filmed everything on their way.

The result is not only a portrayal of the dangers they go through but it's also about less obvious and possibly more common aspects of the refugee experience. It's about the wait in refugee centers (that can last many years), the anticipation and also what it means to do all of this with children. Because watch out for the little Fazilis, who travel with their parents, for they will steal your heart.

A Kurdish-Iraqi immigrant runs into serious immigration problems as he tries to immigrate from France to England in order to be reunited with his girlfriend. Eventually he begins to train in swimming, in an attempt to swim the channel between France and England. Welcome is a gripping tale of tolerance as well as relationships between locals and immigrants. It also gives a great look into the shortcoming of the European immigration system, and will have you crying by the end of it, no question.

From The Babadook director Jennifer Kent comes another horror, although this one is more about the horrors of humanity. Set in 1825 Tasmania, The Nightingale follows Irish settler Clare as she seeks bloody revenge on the monsters who wronged her and her family. She teams up with an Aboriginal guide named Billy to accomplish her goal.

Because of its often violent and disturbing tone (the film is rated R for its potentially triggering scenes), The Nightingale understandably polarized audiences upon its release. But it's also an excellent conversation piece, best watched with friends or anyone up for a discussion-filled movie night.

The 1980s were not a great time to be of Pakistani descent in the UK. Hate crimes are at an all-time high and the economy is suffering. Plus, there is really no good era to be a misunderstood teenager. Javed is both those things in this coming-of-age comedy based on a true story. Javed finds solace in the music of one Bruce Springsteen, relating to his themes of small-city blues and the dreams of escaping them.

All of this makes Blinded By The Light a charming movie about a lot of unpleasantness, and while it tries to be too many things (a commentary on race, a musical, a coming of age story, etc), it succeeds where it matters: to treat the story with care and intelligence.

This funny and charming movie is about a Palestinian slacker named Salam who works on a famous Israeli soap opera. Each day, he has to pass a tough Israeli checkpoint to get to work and in an attempt to make things easier for himself, he agrees to change the ending of the soap opera to please the officer in charge of the checkpoint. At the same time, a temperamental French actress and his Palestinian love interest wish for opposite endings to the show. Stuck between love and politics, Salam has to navigate a complex situation to please all sides. There are a lot of hummus jokes.

Lion is the award-sweeping movie based on the true story of a kid in India who gets lost in a train and suddenly finds himself thousands of kilometers away from home. 25 years later, after being adopted by an Australian couple, he embarks on a journey through his memory and across continents to reconnect with his lost family. Dev Patel plays Saroo, and Nicole Kidman plays his Australian adoptive mother. Two truly amazing performances that will transport you to the time and place of the events, as well as its emotions spanning tear-jerking moments and pure joy. An uplifting, meaningful, and beautiful movie.

Joy is a dutiful, overseas Filipino worker supporting her entire family back home. Ethan is a well-off bartender who has, time and again, put himself first before others. They couldn’t be any more different, yet in Hong Kong, their alien status and ambitious goals make them kindred spirits. What starts as a low-stakes bond quickly turns into an essential relationship, one that puts their personal commitments to the test. 

Hello, Love, Goodbye may appear formulaic at first, but it is heightened by a keen understanding of life overseas. It avoids romanticizing the migrant experience and sees it for what it truly is: a harsh but necessary means to an end. If this seems too severe, it’s also softened by an enchanting romance and some welcome comic relief in the form of the pair’s friends. Because of this nice mix, it’s no surprise that Hello, Love, Goodbye instantly broke domestic records and remains the highest-grossing Filipino movie of all time. 

This movie is a wild ride, literally, since it mostly takes place on a bus driving really fast. It's about one Russian-American social worker who gets hung-up between helping his community driving a group of elderly Russians to a funeral or helping the people he's hired to help.

In its essence, Give Me Liberty is a comedy where the chaos doesn't stop escalating, but thanks to impeccable character work and excellent acting, it's a relevant and poignant movie. You will find yourself in the same position as the social worker, trying to decide who needs his help more.

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as a disgraced doctor-turned-immigrant cab driver who inadvertently stumbles upon London's black market organ trade. Audrey Tatou and Sophie Okonedo also star as fellow "illegals" struggling to make ends meet in the shadows of England. This film is about illegal immigrants, it is told from their perspective, and because of that it becomes so humane that it indulges in social commentary. It's a really interesting, sometimes thrilling, watch.

A poetic and peculiar movie from Senegal about a girl who is forced to marry a wealthy businessman instead of her love interest. The latter, a poor construction worker, embarks on a risky journey across the sea to Europe. The story takes a supernatural turn thereafter, one that is unlike anything seen before in stories around immigration, but one which makes sense. Still, the excellent acting and the long takes that immerse you in what life is like in Senegal, both in and out of the margins of society, are the reasons to watch here. Atlantics' characters are believable and will capture your interest throughout the usual and unusual parts of the movie. They provide rare insight into narratives that most of us have never been exposed to.

On one side, this is a look at the real-life efforts of local North Dakota Pastor Jay Reinke to provide shelter for Oil-working migrants in his Church for the course of well over two years – he ends up calling this The Overnighters Program. On another, it is the story of more than a thousand people living the broken American Dream, the pastor’s concerned, sensible neighbors, his well-meaning attempts backfiring, and all that’s in between. The Overnighters is an engaging, if not highly-aware, award-winning documentary that feeds on altruism, hope of redemption, and their ideal truth about the nature of human existence.

After the sudden death of a teacher, 55-year-old Algerian immigrant Bachir Lazhar is hired at an elementary school in Montreal. Struggling with a cultural gap between himself and his students at first, he helps them to deal with the situation, revealing his own tragic past. A strong portrait without any weird sentimentality. 11-year-old actress Sophie Nélisse makes her brilliant debut.