“Documented,” the first-person account by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, trails his impressive campaign for passage of the Dream Act path to citizenship for some of the 11 million immigrants in the United States without legal residency.
The film blurs lines between documentary, reality television and “Candid Camera,” with Vargas instigating the proceedings. Filming was already underway when he generated a flurry of publicity in June 2011 by publishing a tell-all in the New York Times Magazine, outing himself as an immigrant who overstayed his legal welcome.
His lack of documentation hardly seems like an inconvenience, however. The resourceful and plugged-in Vargas has still managed to attain great success in a highly competitive field. He admits in the film to lying on employment forms to land jobs at the San Francisco Chronicle, the Philadelphia Daily News and the Washington Post, enviable positions for birthright citizens and legal immigrants in the business.
Given that Vargas’ grandparents are naturalized U.S. citizens, they had an opportunity to petition for his legal residency through a lengthy process. The film neglects to mention that his lack of citizenship might be of their doing.
In 2012, President Obama halted deportation of young migrants in the country illegally. But the film shows Vargas to be in no celebratory mood over their victory, since an age limit of 30 effectively prevents him from enjoying the fruits of his own labor. Only then does it become obvious that his advocacy is meant to serve primarily him.
MPAA rating: No.
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.
Playing: At Landmark Regent Theatre, Westwood.