Robert De Niro’s Immigration Short Film ‘Ellis’ Gets iTunes Release

Ellis Robert De Niro
Courtesy of New Yorker Film Festival

Robert De Niro’s 14-minute immigration film “Ellis,” from French artist and director JR, will be released Friday on iTunes.

The short, which recently screened at the New Yorker Film Festival and select New York theaters, stars De Niro as a man reflecting on the immigrant experience as he wanders the halls of the abandoned Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital among JR’s  “Unframed — Ellis Island” installation of images of century-old photographs of European immigrants. Eric Roth wrote the script.

Following its opening in 1902, approximately 1.2 million people passed through the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital. The Statue of Liberty can be seen from the windows.

Italian filmmaker Stefania Grassi recently asserted that “Ellis” was plagiarized from her work, which De Niro’s attorney has strongly denied, calling the claims “preposterous” and “libelous.”

JR also announced the film is available for a 24-hour preview on Facebook on Thursday. Producer Jane Rosenthal, CEO of Tribeca Enterprises, said that “Ellis” is meant to spur discussion about the current immigration crisis.

“‎America is a nation of immigrants,” she said. “We came in waves; we came in trickles; we came in chains. Some of us were running away from oppression; some were dragged from our homes; many were chasing a better life. As new generations were born, some of us forgot how America was made and history proved an unreliable narrator. This is the area where art can fill the gap, illuminate the experience and create the conversation.”

Picture Motion ran distribution of “Ellis” for hundreds of community screenings, which started Nov. 9, at colleges, universities, high schools and art schools around the world.

“At Picture Motion we believe in the power of convening people around great films for the purpose of creating change, and we’re already starting to see ‘Ellis’ be a catalyst for empathy and action,” campaign director Julie Kohn said.

In addition to the schools, screening hosts include New York Immigration Coalition, NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, YMCA International Services, TEDx, NYC Department of Education, Google, CAA, Apple and Amazon.

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  1. njgsackman says:

    this movie will be a MAJOR disgrace to those hard working immigrants like my mom who passed through Ellis Island in the earley 1900’s from Sicily, her family came here legally as did my Dads Family also from Sicily. They never got any hand outs, My grand dad lost his leg while working on the railroad he recieved a wooden leg & still worked. they were proud to be American & assimilated while becoming citizen LEGALLY. ITS FUNNY HOW THIS ARTICLE LEAVES THIS FACT OUT…I hope Robert D. & liberal hollywood gets sued to the max by the Italian original writer. THIS IS A SLAP IN THE FACE TO ALL THOSE ELLIS ISLAND IMMIGRANTS WHO CAME HERE TO BETTER THEIR LIVES & OBEYED OUR LAWS!!!!!

    • Christie says:

      I thought the short film was great. I don’t think it was portraying ANY negative message about immigrants. My grandpagents were from Sicily… also did things the right way. This film was actually very sad….. speaking from a child’s view. Alone, hiding and afraid. But he made it in the end. I don’t see the big deal.

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