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.