Woodkid & Nils Frahm - Ellis

by Jim Harris Rating:4 Release Date:2016-07-08

Ellis the soundtrack is 9 minutes of a slow, melodramatic piano playing and 15 minutes of background music as Robert DeNiro tells a rather romantic story of a young boy who hides in a closet after he is rejected and sent home from Ellis Island.  It’s not a particularly authentic-sounding story and it errs more on pathos than a true rendering of an immigrant arriving on the island and being rejected.  At least that’s what my research into my past and the history of Ellis Island, that I write about in my forthcoming novel, As God Looked On (Shameless plug, but the truth).

Ellis starts at the grave side of the young boy’s father somewhere in Ireland who has a note stuck in his suitcase by his mother that tells him to make her proud when he goes to the great country of America.  My great-great-great grandmother supposedly said to my relative in the 1890s something to the effect of, ‘Go ahead, you dipwad, they will kick your ass even harder over there…’.

Then DeNiro and the story starts musing about all the ghosts of people rejected at Ellis Island.  The fact is from 1892 to 1954 there were 12 million immigrants who passed through Ellis Island and only 2% were rejected.  This romantic view of the immigration experience belies the fact that really only the ones who had apparent diseases or were attractive women who wouldn’t do them sexual favors got rejected.  Just to be told no for no given reason a little boy with a suitcase, doesn’t makes sense but does make good Hollywood, they must be assuming.

The last 15 minute narrative has a few long lapses when evidently Robert DeNiro is catching his breath and then has squirrelly drama squalls that sound maudlin.  It doesn’t sound so much a soundtrack as background filler.

Hollywood actors tend to over-dramatize the truth and if this movie prelude soundtrack is an indicator, that’s what happening with the documentary movie, Ellis.  Someday there might be the right story told of how the 12 million immigrants that passed through to America were treated like trash and abused and called rapists, killers, and thieves just like Trump is calling the 12 million Latino immigrants in America today. In fact, here in St. louis, there is a section of the city called Dogtown, that is and was filled exclusively with Irish immigrants and called such because they were considered dogs and were openly beaten in the streets.  The Irish were considered such lowly scum when they came through Ellis Island that a famous local coffee maker, that is now worth in the millions, named itself Ronnoco, because it would have meant death to their company if they had not spelled their real name backwards, O’Connor.  No, history isn’t usually as romantic as the movies, but it does repeat itself.  The Ellis Island spigot that opened in 1892 was stopped up in 1954 by the same group of people who want to stop the Latino spigot today: Republicans.

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