This is the story of film Director Elia Kazan's uncle, who emigrated to America from Turkey in the late 1800's.
This film should give all Americans an appreciation for the hardships that so many immigrants have endured in their quest to escape the injustices of their home land to make it - legally - to the shores of America.
Stavros Topouzoglou (Stathis Giallelis) was a Greek man, born in Turkey, who faced many challenges on his way to America. With his family's blessing and their entire meager wealth, they send him on his way to Constantinople so that he would board a ship to America with the intent that he would work to bring his family to America to join him.
Things didn't go quite as planned, though - along the way he picks up a rather annoying sidekick who takes him for all he's got. Despite this, he struggles to find a way to make his destination - without his father's knowledge of his having been cheated and robbed, facing one misfortune after another.
Eventually making it to Constantinople, he meets up with his cousin who tries to help him, but the strong willed Stavros has his own ideas, which lead him into a little trouble. While in Constantinople, he has his first sexual encounter with a woman, and later takes a wife who's low self esteem basically ruins their wedding night.
Stavros is still determined to beat all odds to get to America, though -- some of his experiences are angering while others are laughable, but they all make this film worth watching repeatedly.
An interesting note about this film: It was filmed on location in Greece and Turkey, and Kazan opted to use lessor known actors rather than well known stars in this production. These tidbits really give the film an authenticity that it would not have otherwise had, and I think makes the film that much more interesting. One thing is certain, the scenery is gorgeous!
America America won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction - set decoration, black and white in 1964 and two Golden Globes for Best Director and Most Promising Newcomer Male in 1964, and was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Director Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden) was the recipient of the coveted Lifetime Acheivement Oscar and is renowned as one of the most honored and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history, having netted a total of 20 Academy Awards and multiple nominations plus three Tony Awards for Best Director.
Born in what is known today as Istanbul, Turkey (then, Constantinople, of the Ottoman Empire), Elias Kazanjoglou passed away in New York City just after his 94th birthday in 2003.
You can purchase this wonderfully intriguing DVD, which arrives February 8, at the Warner Brothers shop.