“The issue of illegal immigrants or, as this film would pointedly have it, undocumented Americans, is given a very human face in Jose Antonio Vargas’ documentary about his own undocumented status despite living in this country for twenty years and forging a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism career.”
“Documented is an effective look at the problems that face millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, especially the so-called DREAMers, young people who stand to benefit from the DREAM Act.”
“That’s a pain felt by a good deal of undocumented immigrants. And what faces them now that so many scream for their deportation (and given that Obama has deported more than any president before him)? They’re told that they can “get back in line” to immigrate legally once they go back to their “home” countries, but no such line exists. It’s a mess, and this documentary is a sharp reminder of how real people exist at the heart of the debate over how to fix it.”
“This is unmistakably the work of a journalist, unadorned and straightforward, with Vargas taking a direct and rational stance. But he's not averse to raising hell: in one scene he confronts midwestern conservatives at a rally for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, and the documentary becomes more visceral, reminiscent of work by Ross McElwee and Nick Broomfield.”
“But his story is a vivid illustration of the pickle we're in. The United States remains a land of opportunity and a magnet for the strivers who keep the dream alive. It's frustrating and weird that we seem to have no place for people whom any one of us would easily recognize as, like the politicians love to say, "fellow Americans."”
"...a deeply engrossing self-portrait.."
The film is at its best when Vargas, like a good journalist, probes the subject of immigration and talks to people about their experiences and opinions....Vargas may have a personal take on illegal immigration, but he makes his best case when he shows he’s not alone.
"Just under 90 minutes, the film is a project of Define American, the nonprofit media and culture campaign that Vargas founded with the hope of shifting the national conversation on immigration in America.
That is much easier said than done.
Immigration is an issue where lies, half-truths and distortions have been repeated for so long, they've become misguided gospel in the hearts of too many.
Vargas' documentary, which will be entered in film festivals this fall and winter and hopefully will find commercial release by early next year, is ingenious in the way it conveys its message.
It combats the calcified falsehoods of our immigration debate with humanity.
Vargas doesn't lecture or condemn anyone in his film. He does something much more powerful. He travels around the country telling his story while calmly facing the very people who want him and others like him to be deported."
"If you had told me a documentary could shift my mindset, I would have said you were crazy. That was before I watched Documented – a film that made me realize there is a piece of legislation even more desperately in need of passage: the DREAM Act.
It isn't that I haven't read about the plight of the undocumented or don't know any DREAMers. I know several people who have overstayed their visas or who were brought illegally to the United States as children. I have always been sympathetic to their cause. But Vargas's story changed me, giving me clearer window on the life of an illegal immigrant. His story and the manner in which it is told makes you better understand their emotions and hardships.
I hope all of our political leaders watch this film. They need to understand that skilled immigration is an economic issue that is directly tied to the health of our economy. But this is about more than the economy: providing basic human rights to the millions of undocumented children who live in the shadows of U.S. society is something we must do to heal the soul of this nation."
"Documented is a winning documentary, partly because it exposes the rank ignorance that underlies the anti-immigration attitudes of so many Americans.
The film is especially timely, as a second bout of comprehensive immigration reform is struggling through the difficult legislative process.
The most memorable nuggets of the film are the raw interactions with well-meaning anti-immigrant Americans confronted with the inescapable difficulties of living life as the child of undocumented immigrants, and the bizarre legal barriers that have kept Vargas in citizenship limbo.
The interactions in the film are the only data point I've seen where, every day, immigrant-averse Americans are exposed to the harsh realities of undocumented life and soften their opposition as a result."
"Vargas and his team successfully captured a story about a complex issue in a way that's engaging and easy to follow.
The film will be most meaningful for people who see their experience on film and it will undoubtedly play well as a conversation starter for the less informed."
"If you don't already know the name Jose Antonio Vargas, you will. Delicately woven from personal history and political conviction, [Documented] is the product of a reporter's ear, a cinephile's eye, and a memoirist's vulnerability.
Indeed, Documented, refracting the struggle of undocumented Americans through the prism of Vargas' tumultuous journey, is at its most powerful when Vargas' calm snags on life's unpredictable shoals.
Vargas remains an inveterate reporter. It is his willingness to apply tough questions to the muddier complications of his own life that marks Documented as a moving and intimate work."
"Documented, which shuttles between Vargas' New York City flat and his mother's home in Manila—with a stop at a Mitt Romney town hall meeting along the way—is sprinkled with heartbreaking scenes of their complex relationship, strained by 20 years of separation. Keep a box of tissues handy."
"Political or social issues come alive more vividly when they're explored through personal stories. Documented succeeds in putting flesh and face on the plight of undocumented immigrants.
At its heart, Documented asks what it means to be American. The film succeeds because it moves well beyond an abstract debate about the very timely subject. It lets us get to know a living person caught in the middle of it."
"Vargas is an ace story teller. Even more than documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth or even Waiting for Superman, Vargas courageously puts a human face on a story that many people think they know."
"Putting a human face on a broad political issue is one of the most tried-and-true documentary formulas there is, and Documented maximizes the potential of the formula by delivering a clear message and presenting the human angle with palpable urgency."
"Through an Alexis de Tocqueville-style road trip that takes him everywhere from Capitol Hill to the 2012 Iowa caucuses to Alabama and the crucible of reactionary anti-immigrant laws, Vargas keeps the issue of undocumented personhood—his own legal identity—front and center."
“In Vargas’ personal struggle to reconcile conflicting emotions about his country and his family with his newfound role as a social activist, Documented quite literally puts a human face on the immigration issue.”