This landmark documentary is a poignant meditation on the meaning of exile, Diaspora and the American dream. Filmmaker Robert Bober visited Ellis Island in 1979, before it was turned into a museum. The camera follows a young tour guide and some American tourists along the path their ancestors took while passing through the Ellis Island immigration center. Narration by the great French-Jewish writer Georges Perec provides a counterpoint to Bober’s rich cinematic evocation of the island. "For me, Ellis Island is the location of Exile. . . . What I find here are not roots or traces, but the opposite, something shapeless, nearly indescribable that can be called closure or scission or breakage, something intimately and confusedly linked to the very fact of being Jewish."
The second part of ELLIS ISLAND TALES is structured around charming, testimonial portraits of Jewish and Italian Americans who passed through Ellis Island. The interviews also evoke New York City as a place of opportunity, and they explore the contradictory legacies of a place nicknamed Island of Tears in both Yiddish and Italian.
Robert Bober was born in Berlin in 1931 and left for Paris when his parents fled Nazi Germany. He survived the war in France and left school at the age of 15 to become a tailor. In 1959, he was François Truffaut's assistant on THE 400 BLOWS.
He later worked with Truffaut on two more films: SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER and JULES ET JIM. Bober has been directing films since 1967. In 1991 he won France's SCAM award for lifetime achievement.
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