Monday, May 29, 2017

Three Trembling Cities

Three Trembling Cities
Written and directed by Arthur Vincie

The web series is made up of 10 video chapters each 5 to 10 minutes long.
It is about the immigrant experience currently in the USA, specifically in New York City.
The first 5 chapters are about two women friends one Indian the other Hungarian and an Iranian brother and sister. These are educated professionals, academics, a lawyer, and one is an actor. Some of them are children of people who came to the USA.

In Chapter 2 these four people are in restaurant scene. At one table are the two women introduced in chapter one, one Hungarian the other Indian. At the other table is a brother and sister of Iranian descent. The Iranian actor is going back to Iran to perform in a play. His lawyer sister is concerned for him, not being clear what the situation is there.
We switch back and forth between their conversation and that of the women at a different table. At the end of this is nicely set up so that one person from one couple is in the extreme foreground while the opposite person from the other table is in focus in the background and the dialogue is  intermixed. They soon all meet.

For me the series really takes off in the last 5 chapters which is a separate story focusing on the more working class struggles of undocumented men who work off the books in a restaurant. They are much more on the edge compared to the relatively privileged and documented who are preparing for international flights and can come and go.  (I mean I can’t even afford international travel.) These three men share a small apartment. Two of them are in one room and one of them is crafting jewelry which makes noise and disturbs his roommate. This man is also working two jobs and sending money back home to family in Africa while crafting his jewelry in his “spare” time. The viewer is introduced to the natural humanity and charm of these three men through the solid performances of the three very nice looking actors.  

This business with documentation is not normal in human experience. Actually it is a recent construct of bureaucratic industrial societies something very new in the story of human society. I’ve been reading the novels of B Traven. I’m currently reading The Death Ship. It involves a seaman who was in port as the nice ship he worked on sails away without his. He is stranded without his seamen card and whatever documentation he needs to get a job on another ship and somehow get home to the USA. He ends up being exploited on the worst kind of ship having no alternative. In this and other works Traven likes to talk about the time before WWI when a person could travel all across the world without papers, claiming that all this is new, after the “War for Democracy”.
Yet even if the papers had not been an issue for the African men in the web series, they surely would have confronted cultural and racial barriers in certain civilizations that could have been insurmountable.

Three Trembling Cities is very well done technically with beautiful photography, by producer Ben Wolf and sound. The production makes very workable choices with the budget constraints. I loved how the restaurant where the men are working is never seen, but implied as we see them outside on short breaks from work in their aprons.

It is fine series that should be seen and it felt like it was just getting rolling. It would be lovely to see it go into a second season and on to Netflix with everyone getting a nice paycheck for this work.  

See it for free on Youtube and other streaming video sites:

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