Ellis Island

1982 | 00:28:00 | United States | English | B&W | Stereo

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: Experimental Film, History, Performance

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Between 1892 and 1927, almost 16 million people came to Ellis Island attempting to immigrate to the United States. For the 280,000 who were turned back, Ellis Island become the “Isle of Tears.”  Meredith Monk and Bob Rosen chose this site as the setting for a historical/psychological ghost story about our ancestors. Ellis Island blends documentary, experimental, fiction and dance modes in what Monk describes as “a mosaic of sounds and images woven together into formal musical design.” Tableaux vivants and a photo-documentary stillness collapse the passing of time in haunting scenes of immigrants and their families moving through the clinics, classrooms, and waiting rooms that make up this landscape of memory, pain, and hope.

"Though it is inspired by historical fact, the work is not a documentary. Though it uses professional actors, it has no dialogue and no storyline in the ordinary sense. It does, however, try to suggest something of the atmosphere and mystery of a ghost story, the ghosts in this case being our ancestors."

—Meredith Monk and Bob Rosen (San Francisco International Video Festival, 1982)