La Ciudad (the City)

on November 11, 1999 by Luisa F. Ribeiro
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   "La Ciudad (The City)" is a beautiful if melancholy snapshot into the lives of illegal Latin immigrants who have come to New York City in the hopes of earning money to send to their impoverished families back home. Broken into four separate tales that present characters and situations, the film's mild sensation of narrative frustration heightens the film's overall feeling of traumatic if poetic yearning of people determined to try against all odds.
   The stories, entitled "Bricks," "Home," "The Puppeteer," and "Seamstress," reveal much about the large and small elements that tug at each of the protagonists as they face life in the harshness of a sprawling foreign city. In the first, men desperate for work are offered a paltry few pennies to collect bricks; their fear of scowling cops and a day without pay keeps them subjected to the miserable earnings and dangerous work conditions. Writer/director David Riker brackets his stories provocatively, contrasting this story of anxiety and powerlessness with the fourth tale, in which a woman is threatened with dismissal from a sewing factory when she asks for her back-pay; she is joined by her fellow workers in a work strike that brings about a grim and frightening confrontation. Between these two social and political points, Riker places two more sentimental vignettes, the most moving of which is about a young man new to the city who believes he has found the comfort of a possible home only to end up lost in the maze of streets and towering buildings. Easily the most sentimental of the stories is that of a sickly, homeless street performer determined to enroll his young daughter in school.
   But overall there is nothing at all sentimental and romantic about Riker's stark and powerful vision of life on the streets for illegal immigrants and the bleakness that surrounds them and their quest for a not just a better life, but any life. "La Ciudad's" stories tell of realities too many of us would prefer to ignore.    Starring Joe Rigano, Cipriano Garcia, Leticia Herrera and Jose Rabelo. Directed and written by David Riker. Produced by David Riker and Paul S. Mezey. A Zeitgeist release. Drama. Spanish- and English-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 89 min.
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