ARRIVAL *Movie Review*

This week I review ARRIVAL.  The movie stars Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist who is recruited to help communicate with aliens who arrive in 12 cities around the world.  She’s joined by scientist Ian Donnelly, played by Jeremy Renner.  Forest Whitaker also stars.  Denis Villeneuve directs this Oscar-contender.

ARRIVAL is a fairly quiet film without a lot of fanfare that’s more reflective than action-packed.  The screenplay was written by Eric Heisserer who is known for movies such as FINAL DESTINATION 5 and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. ARRIVAL is a different type of movie entirely, though.  It’s mind-bending and self-reflective and contemplative in its themes and storyline.  The screenplay is well-written in that it doesn’t get in its own way with too much unnecessary dialogue.

The big theme here is time and the motif to represent it is the circle.  If you look at traditional interpretations of them, they represent wholeness, eternity and timelessness.  Louise tells us herself that the movie is about time and that these circles are no coincidence.  In the opening lines of the movie she says “I’m not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings”.  Circles are everywhere in this movie.  One of the first shots in the movie is of Louise’s hand with her gold wedding ring on it.  It’s a simple, unbroken band of continuity and time.  Circles are everywhere—the hallway in the hospital is curved like the side of a circle, the student tables in the hall where Louise lectures are curved facing her like a circle, the quilting on her jacket later in the movie looks like waves up close but from further away looks like giant embroidered circles.  Ian, the scientist Louise works with at the alien site in Montana, wears a watch with a large circular face.  The circular face stands out in particular during a scene when he looks at the alien transport vehicle with binoculars, themselves a set of circles.  The door to the alien ship opens every 18 hours—even the choice of 18 involves two stacked circles.

For more about the themes and symbolism in ARRIVAL, take a look below:

—>Looking for the direct link to this video?  Click here.

Living and Working [Il]legally in America — It’s Not Just for Latinos Anymore

Hardly a day goes by without some news about them — the undocumented. Congress debates the issue of how to handle them, and pundits argue even as the number of illegal immigrants grows. Supposedly, there are more than 12 million of them in the United States. Thinking about them, we tend to see the shadowy figures on this week’s cover: Mexicans or Central Americans scurrying across the road at night, abandoned by their coyote in the desert dust. They pick our fruit, cut our lawns and bus our dishes. But what does illegal immigration have to do with us?

More than you might think. According to statistics compiled by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), during 2004 alone, 540 Israelis were deported or about to be deported. If that many Israelis were caught, it stands to reason that there are many thousands more — in Los Angeles as well as the rest of the United States — who have not yet been located by authorities. And we know from interviews we conducted that — besides Israelis — there are many Jews from Latin America and elsewhere who also fall into this category.

Morris Ardoin, who handles media relations for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), said that he knows of no way to determine how many Jews are in the United States without a valid visa or working in contravention of the law. “Making a guess on that would be a shot in the dark,” he said. “Like asking how many stars in the sky.”

Maybe there aren’t quite as many as there are stars in the sky, but there are undoubtedly many thousands of illegal Jewish aliens throughout the United States and in Los Angeles, and they have their own stories to tell. The following are three very different stories of the Jewish experience of illegal immigration.

U.S. Immigration Issue Hits Israelis

These days, so much depends upon language. One person’s “civil war” is another’s “random violence.” Someone’s “unlawful wiretapping” is someone else’s “terrorist surveillance.”

In that sense, whether you use “illegal aliens” or “undocumented residents” partly depends on how you view immigration. But whatever your political attitude, if you think that every illegal/undocumented came into the United States guided by a coyote, then think again.

What about those who came here on a legal but restricted visa, then violated its terms? That’s too long for a demonstration placard, but it describes the status of an unknown number of Jews now living in the United States.

Some entered the country as students or tourists, then simply stayed. And then once here, they violated the restrictions of their status, often by working. These people, too, are illegal/undocumented, and they undoubtedly include a number of Israelis, as well as Jews from the former Soviet Union and Latin America.

In January 2006, the Department of Homeland Security published the 2004 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, the most recent government document on immigration data.

During fiscal year 2004, authorities found 290 “deportable aliens” from Israel. In that same year, an additional 183 Israeli aliens were removed from the United States and an additional 67 Israelis were under “docket control”: ordered to depart the United States.

That means that in 2004 alone, 540 Israelis were located, deported or about to be deported. It stands to reason that there are a great many more Israelis living in the United States, and in Los Angels, who are here illegally but have not been located by authorities.

The Israeli consulate will not give out information on how many Israelis they calculate may be in Los Angels illegally, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of their presence: for example, ads for immigration attorneys in local Hebrew-language publications and Web sites.

Though Jews comprise a very small part of the millions of people who are in the United States illegally, those who are will likely be affected by the proposed revisions in immigration legislation, just as they’ve been affected by changes in security policy since Sept. 11.

Gideon Aronoff, chairman and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), said that what is needed is “to expand people’s attitudes about illegal immigration. As I understand it, something like 40 percent of the illegal immigration into the United States is composed of people who came here on a legitimate tourist or student visa, overstayed the period of the visa, and then remained here, working.” He said that though he does not have exact numbers, that percentage “would certainly include Israelis, as well as Jews from the former Soviet Union and from South America. A smarter and fairer immigration policy would also impact Jews.”

However, Aronoff said that HIAS is not focused only on helping Jews.

“Our interest in good immigration policy is part of our collective mandate to help other communities that we are connected to, and work closely with, such as the Latino community, and by this work to express our humanitarian values,” he said. “Sane immigration policy would mean finding a way of dealing with this issue through a compassionate change in our laws, rather than by using … law enforcement agencies to arrest those at the lowest rung of the economic ladder, like busboys and farm workers.”

Aronoff pointed out that if we go back a couple of generations, some of our ancestors came to the United States under circumstances that were somewhat muddy, legally speaking.

“That’s something we shouldn’t forget,” he said.

Roberto Loiederman is a screenwriter and co-author of “The Eagle Mutiny” (Naval Institute Press, 2001).