David Riker wrote and directed the original segment for THE CITY (LA CIUDAD) while he was a student at New York University's Graduate Film School. "The Puppeteer," shot in six days in 1992, is based on an idea Riker had when he saw a man sitting in his station wagon in a parking lot listening to the radio. There was a girl in the back seat on her knees, daydreaming and rocking back and forth. "They both seemed suspended in time," Riker says. "I wondered who they were waiting for, or if they were just passing time. From that image, I decided to make the film."
This interview with the filmmaker reveals the motivations and process behind the making of THE CITY, in which Riker collaborated with immigrants. THE CITY is Riker's first fictional film after several documentaries and many years of still photography.
Read the full interview
Question: The stories in THE CITY are universal and, at the same time, very personal. How did your life experiences contribute to the film?
I spent a large part of my childhood living outside the U.S., so I have some understanding of what it feels like to be an immigrant... continued
Question: How did the community you've referred to become involved in the film?
I decided that I would not make the film without the community's support... continued
Question: How did you - someone who barely spoke Spanish - gain the trust of the people whose stories you wanted to tell?
In each of the stories, I began my work with the help of someone who already had the trust of the community, in several cases, a community activist... continued
Question: Except for a few professionals, the cast is made up entirely of immigrants from the community. How did you select your actors?
I found Jose Rabelo (Luis in "The Puppeteer,") one of the professional actors in the film, after thoroughly searching the Latin American community theaters, but finding the girl to play his daughter was much more difficult... continued
Question: How did you prepare your cast for the demands of making the film?
My job as a director was to create a safe space for my actors. Many of them were here without papers, and they live with the fear of deportation... continued
Question: Through the four vignettes in THE CITY you represent the experiences of immigrants from a wide variety of Latin American countries. How did you decide upon the perspectives you reflect?
As an example, I decided to make "Home" because I saw the number of Mexicans in New York growing and felt it was important to tell a truly Mexican story... continued
Question: Both "Bricks" and "Seamstress" bring up the question of solidarity: laborers either working at odds with each other or banding together to form a more powerful group. Tell us more about what you hope people will learn from the film.
I wanted the final story in the film to answer the questions raised in "Bricks" - how these immigrants can come together in their new surroundings... continued