America America (1963)

<strong class="MovieTitle">America America</strong> (1963)

(On Cable TV, January 2019) It’s always interesting when a filmmaker uses the tool of their craft to tell us a story about themselves or their family. Here, we have veteran writer/director Elia Kazan helming a production (adapted from his own book) telling all about how his uncle made it from Turkey to America, with numerous obstacles along the way. It’s both a foreign film and a deeply American one, illustrating the underdog immigrant mythology that anyone is welcome to the United States and that opportunities await those willing to work for it. Viewers should be warned that America America is long: nearly three hours, and almost all of them spent in the company of the central character, in a magnificent lead performance by Stathis Giallelis—who has nearly no other screen credits to him filmography. The black-and-white cinematography does seem like a missed opportunity to present the story in an even more expansive format, but it’s easy to remain impressed by this effort to put on film a piece of Kazan’s family history.

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