One of the greatest movies about immigrant experience of coming to America is Elia Kazan’s epic journey America, America based on the stories of his uncle coming from Turkey to the United States in the early 1900’s. The title has been available previously in France and in 2010 it was released as part of Fox’s mega-set Elia Kazan Collection, but this film marks its debut on stand-alone region 1 disc. The dual-layered disc features a progressive black-and-white transfer with very good contrast and no damages on the print. There are a few problematic shots, but those were mostly from the stock footage.
The decent mono soundtrack is in English only and the disc features English and French subtitles. The lone extra is an informative commentary by Foster Hirsch. This is a highly recommended release of an underrated film that needs to be rediscovered by a wider audience.
– Gregory Meshman @ DVD Beaver
Elia Kazan signed a long list of superior movies, but his masterpiece as a writer-director is America America, a fascinating and wholly naturalistic account of the escape from Turkish oppression by Kazan’s Uncle Joe at the beginning of the 20th century. Unlike some late-career works by other directing giants, one needn’t watch America America out of a sense of duty — it’s absorbing, entertaining and enlightening. Forget Francis Coppola’s immigration sequence in The Godfather; America America is three times more potent. Kazan’s associates loved his screenplay but advised him to drop a scene in which a grateful new American, alighting from a boat, drops to his knees to kiss the ground of his new country. What could be more corny? Kazan knew better. Immigrants coming off the boat did exactly that, overcome by emotion and gratitude.
Warner Bros. took over America America’s production funding when producer Ray Stark backed out at the last minute, after Kazan and company were already in Greece and filming. Kazan filmed only four days in Istanbul, where Turkish censors bugged his hotel room and forbade him to shoot anything but palaces and Mosques. Most of the filming was accomplished in Greece, and Kazan brought only a handful of actors from New York. Local actors and unknowns filled a number of key roles, including the all-important lead. Kazan turned his superior directing skills to helping the non-pros portray fully fleshed characters.
ElIa Kazan’s film began as a short story that was then expanded into a novel. Most of the events actually happened to Kazan’s uncle. Just before the turn of the 20th century, the Turkish persecution of its ethnic Armenian population takes a big upswing. Young Greek Stavros Topouzoglou (Stathis Giallelis) witnesses the massacre of some Armenians in a church, including his friend Vartan (Frank Wolff). Fearing that the Turkish army will also attack the minority Greek population, Stavros’ family loads a donkey with all of their valuables and sends the boy to a relative in Constantinople. The idea is that Stavros will go into business with the rug seller, and earn enough money to bring the rest of the family to the safety of the big city. But Stavros has a bigger dream: to reach the fabled shores of America. (…)
Subtitles:Spanish (.srt). English & French (subpack)