Saturday, October 17, 2015

The premiere screening of the film

"Ghosts of Ellis Island"
Salazar Hall C162, 4:30-6:00 p.m.
November 12, 2015

Introduction and Welcome

Dr. Lynn Mahoney
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
California State University, Los Angeles

Sponsored by the Office of the Dean, 
College of Natural and Social Sciences, and 
the Department of Chicano Studies. 

Free and open to the public. 

The Department of Chicano Studies, in partnership with Picture Motion (New York), will host the premiere of "Ghosts of Ellis Island" (ELLIS) at Cal State L.A. "Ghosts of Ellis Island" is a short narrative film starring Academy Award winner Robert De Niro, written by Eric Roth and directed by acclaimed artist JR. Set in the abandoned Ellis Island hospital complex, this film tells the forgotten story of immigrants who built America.  JR uses the power of art and film to share the forgotten histories of the immigrants who led America to its rise as a world power and who connect their struggle to our modern conversation about those who currently seek the same opportunities and safety in this country and in other parts of the world. Following the viewing of the film, a panel featuring experts in the field of U.S. Mexican communities will discuss "Ghosts of Ellis Island" in connection to growing anti-Mexican attitudes in the United States and to topics vital to our understanding of immigration today in the U.S. and abroad. The panel discussion includes a Q & A period with the audience.

See Trailer:

"Ghosts of Ellis Island"
A Panel Discussion
5:00-6:00 p.m.

Moderator: Dr. Roberto Cantú, Emeritus Professor of Chicano Studies and English

1. Dr. Emily Acevedo, Associate Professor of Political Science
California State University, Los Angeles

2. Dr. Francisco Balderrama, Emeritus Professor of Chicano Studies and History
California State University, Los Angeles

3. Dr. Michael Sedano, Editor of La Bloga

4. Dr. Michael Soldatenko, Professor of Chicano Studies and Chair

California State University, Los Angeles



1. Did you see your family's story reflected in the film?

2. Think back to the film. What room from JR’s installation in the hospital do you remember most. Why? What do you remember from it?

3. In one scene there are faces of children on broken windows. What does this mean to you?

4. In the final scenes of ELLIS, Robert De Niro’s character exits by walking on hundreds of photos of faces. Why do you think the faces are on the floor? (vs the wall or ceiling)

5. Why do you think JR uses current photos and not images from that time period on the floor?

6. Why do you think this film was shot in the thick of winter? What character does the weather play, or what does it represent?

7. Many of the immigrants who came through Ellis Island sacrificed everything to get here. Has immigrating to America become any easier since? If not, what are the barriers to entry today that are causing hardships for immigrants? 

8. Do you think the American dream, as described in the film, is still the same dream today?

9. Where is today's Ellis Island and how are its stories being told today?

10. Ellis Island stood as a symbol for immigration in the early 20th century. What places symbolize immigration today? Where are people coming through today?

11. Why did your ancestors come to the United States?

12. Why do you think they come today?

13. What might they be fleeing or escaping? What risks do they take?

14. What differences or similarities can you identify between former immigrants to the United States coming through Ellis Island and today’s migration of peoples taking place in various parts of the world?

Michael Cervantes
California State University, Los Angeles

Panel Participants

Dr. Emily Acevedo

I would like to discuss the challenges that immigrants faced not only coming to this country (journey here), but once here, to be discriminated and made the target of policies that labeled groups as problems (Italians, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Mexicans, etc.). Reflecting on the images of individuals on the floor in the film made me think of those who came before us. Immigrants have enriched our nation in numerous ways (to be elaborated in the panel discussion), yet the perception of immigrants as a drain on our society (and resources) still prevails. Oddly enough, those wishing for a better life are left out in the cold...similar to the winter scene on Ellis Island. 

Dr. Emily Acevedo is an Associate Professor of Political Science at California State University, Los Angeles. She obtained her Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches and does research in the areas of U.S.-Latin America relations such as cross-border challenges related to the U.S. led drug war, democratic consolidation, threats to security, as well as international political economy, focucing on expanding economic regional arrangements such as the Pacific Alliance and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She teaches undergraduate courses in Model United Nations and Foundation of Global Politics, as well as undergraduate and graduate courses in International Relations, International Political Economy and Latin American Politics.  

Dr. Francisco E. Balderrama

"I am the ghost of all those who never got there and the ghost of those who will never get there” (Ghosts of Ellis Island). My comments and observations center on those who got there and were expelled. Ghosts of Ellis Island is a tribute to people from throughout the world who struggled to come to the United States for a new life. However, the story of those who are expelled after arriving and establishing a life has been largely overlooked until the  recent movement in defense of the undocumented and particularly the dreamers. However, explusion of Mexicans as well as Americans of Mexican descent has deep historical roots. Since the early 20th century when today’s patters of immigration were established, the Mexican community has been the target of expulsion. Expulsion or removal from the United States was directed at all Mexicans including many with decades of American residence. Moreover, American citizens of Mexican descent were unconstitutionally deported. Drawing largely from oral history testimony, the experiences of expelled Rubén Jiménez, Carmen Martínez, Ignacio Piña, and Teresa Martínez are portrayed. The discussion underscores endurance and resilience as well as self-awareness and agency in men, women, and children."

Dr. Francisco E. Balderrama is Emeritus Professor of Chicano Studies and History at California State University Los Angeles where he was selected as Outstanding University Professor in 1997. Previously, Balderrama served as Chair of Chicano Studies from 1984 to 1993 and 1997 to 1999. He also has held faculty and administrative appointments at Texas Tech University, Adams State College, and The Claremont Colleges. Professor Balderrama is a Chicano Historian with special interest in the American West particularly California and Los Angeles. He offers a variety of courses in Chicano History for the Chicano Studies Department and teaches classes on Los Angeles, California, and the American West for the History Department. Balderrama’s degrees are in History: Bachelor of Arts from Loyola University of Los Angeles, Master of Arts and Doctorate from UCLA.

Balderrama’s research program focuses on the Mexican community during the early 20th century with particular attention to relations with the Mexican nation. He is co-author with Raymond Rodríguez of Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s (University of New Mexico Press, 1995 and revised edition, 2006). The Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights has proclaimed Decade of Betrayal as an outstanding work on intolerance in North America. Balderrama also has written In Defense of La Raza: The Los Angeles Mexican Consulate and Community, 1929-1936(University of Arizona Press, 1982). In addition, his work has appeared in Encyclopedia of the American West, Historians of the American Frontier: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook, Encyclopedia of the History of Chicago, Radical History, Latinas in the United States: An Historical Encyclopedia, and A Guide to the History of California. Furthermore, Balderrama has completed a term as a managing editor of Ethnohistory: Journal of the Ethnohistory Association. Scholarly journals have reviewed his work and the English and Spanish language press as well as radio and television has featured Balderrama and his research.

Balderrama has served as Oral History Director, “Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles: From the Barrios to the Big Leagues” a Collaborative Project sponsored by the Baseball Reliquary and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library of California States University Los Angeles with funding from California Stories Program, California Endowment of the Humanities, 2005-2006. This project received the 2007 Helen and Martin Schwartz Prize for the outstanding public funded humanities project in the United States awarded by the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

Balderrama has received the following fellowships: UCLA Doctoral Advancement, Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, and the Ford Foundation Senior Post Doctoral Fellowship. Among his professional awards are the Winthrop Rockefeller Distinguished Lectureship at the University of Arkansas and the Senior Fulbright Lectureship in American Immigration History at the University of Rome, Italy. The Ford Foundation, Western Association of Colleges and Universities, Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education, and the Educational Testing Service has retained Balderrama as a consultant and reviewer. He also has given expert testimony for the California State Senate Select Committee for Citizen Participation.

Dr. Roberto Cantú was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and received his Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is Emeritus Professor of Chicano Studies and English at California State University, Los Angeles, where he has taught since 1974. In 1994 he began a joint appointment with the Department of English where he teaches courses on the European novel (seventeenth to nineteenth centuries), literary theory (major critics), and courses and graduate seminars on Latin American literature. He is the founder of the Chicano Studies Publications Center at Cal State L.A. (1975-1984), and editor of two journals: Campo Libre: Journal of Chicano Studies (1979-1984), and Escolios: Revista de Literatura, Teoría y Crítica Literaria (1975-1979). Cantú has been active in numerous campus activities, producing plays such as Bodas de sangre by Federico García Lorca (1998), Bless Me, Ultima (part of the 2008 Big Read in the County of Los Angeles and in Cal State L.A.), Orquídeas a la luz de la luna (part of the 2012 Conference on Carlos Fuentes), and scenes adapted from Los de abajo, as part of the 2015 Conference on Mariano Azuela. He is Project Director of the Gigi Gaucher-Morales Memorial Conference Series (2009-present), for which he has organized nine international conferences, including the Conference on Américo Paredes to be held at Cal State L.A., May 6-7, 2016. Cantú edited the bilingual edition (English/Spanish) of  La raza cόsmica by Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos (1979), and translated José Antonio Villarreal’s novel Pocho from English to Spanish (Anchor Books, 1995). He has edited the following books: Tradition and Innovation in Mesoamerican Cultural History (2011, with Aaron Sonnenschein); An Insatiable Dialectic: Essays on Critique, Modernity, and Humanism (2013); The Willow and the Spiral: Essays on Octavio Paz and the Poetic Imagination (2014); The Reptant Eagle: Essays on Carlos Fuentes and the Art of the Novel (2015). Forthcoming books: The Forked Juniper: Critical Essays on Rudolfo Anaya (University of Oklahoma Press, 2016), and Equestrian Rebels: Essays on Mariano Azuela and the Novel of the Mexican Revolution (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016). Cantú is the recipient of the 1990-1991 Outstanding Professor Award. In 2010 Cal State L.A. honored him with the President's Distinguished Professor Award. 

Dr. Michael Sedano

How to watch "Ghosts of Ellis Island"? I rarely go to the movies. Sitting a long time in the dark seems an unproductive use of time, time I will never get back. Rather than go calladito from that dark room, I ask myself three questions: What are two elements of the film I enjoyed? Its minimalism and its rhetoric. What one element could have been presented differently, more, less, not at all? The ghost metaphor. What can I do next? Three things: get the book, view the film/trailer again, document my own places and faces.  Final consideration: "Ghosts" presents a gentle subversion of the romantic notion of immigration detention while reaffirming the idealization of immigration. Rage, rage against for-profit ICE prisons. 

Dr. Michael Sedano is a founding member of La Bloga, the oldest Chicana/Chicano Literature blog on the planet, now in its twelfth year. Retired from private industry, he is a lifelong public speaking teacher and coach. He has conducted numerous "read your stuff aloud" workshops for the National Latino Writers Conference in Alburquerque, and at Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park.  A photographer, Sedano specializes in night-blooming epiphyllum cacti (which he grows), and public speakers. His photographs of raza writers are in the archives of the Tomás Rivera Memorial Library at UC Riverside and Doheny Memorial Library at the University of Southern California. Sedano digitized the extant videos from the 1973 Festival de Flor y Canto, and coordinated a reunion floricanto of those writers in 2010 at USC, all of which are available for worldwide viewing via the USC Digital Library. 

Sedano is a Veteran of the United States Army where he trained as an intermediate speed morse code radio operator, and served in communications on Mae Bong, Korea, the world's highest anti-aircraft missile site.  Michael Sedano holds a Ph.D. in Communication Arts and Sciences from the University of Southern California. 

Dr. Michael Soldatenko

The U.S. has been ambivalent about immigrants and this is reflected in our language, from the Smoked Irish of the 19th century to the Illegal Alien of today. "Immigration" and "immigrant" have been contested terms that are often (if not always) racialized. Thus they were/are always marked by inferiority. We know many of these stories, all painful, marked by time and place. Yet in today's political culture, many portray a story of the immigrant as successful, contented, and sharing a homogeneous experience--all escaping their past and poverty like some Horation /Alger story. What is both hidden and revealed, not unlike the character in Ghosts of Ellis Island, by the term immigrant is that these individuals are always impoverished, considered criminal, radical and diseased. The "excluded" are simply more so. 

Dr. Michael Soldatenko is Professor of Chicano Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. He has served as chair of the department from 2005 to 2011 and again since 2014. His manuscript Chicano Studies: A Genesis of a Discipline appeared in fall 2009 published by University of Arizona Press. His book analyzes the genesis and development of contemporary Chicana and Chicano academic thought. Some of his recent essays are: “México 68: La imaginación al poder” Latin American Perspectives 32 (2005), “Constructing Chicana and Chicano Studies: 1993 UCLA Conscious Students of Color Protest” in Enrique C. Ochoa and Gilda Laura Ochoa (eds.) Latina/o Los Angeles: Global Transformation, Migrations and Political Activism (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2005), “The Limits of Interdisciplinarity: The Case of Chicano Studies” in Joe Parker, Ranu Samantrai, and Mary Romero (eds.) Interdisciplinarity and Social Justice: Revisioning Academic Responsibility (Albany: SUNY Press, 2010), and “Higher Education and the Capitalist Turn: Research and Reflections” with Eric Margolis in Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso (eds.) Higher Education & Society (New York: Peter Lang, 2015).

JR on his film "The Ghosts of Ellis Island" (video)


The 2016 Conference on Américo Paredes
Music Hall, May 6-7

California State University, Los Angeles

For full conference program and updates, visit:

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