You can’t compare apples to oranges, the saying goes.  Well… why not?  In the new documentary The Apple Pushers, which I had the opportunity to screen this week, the argument seems to be that when it comes to America and immigration no two populations are really all that different.  The film tells the story of five street car vendors who immigrated from Russia, Mexico, Ecuador, and Bangladesh to the Big Apple in search of a better life, and who all found their opportunity in New York City’s Green Cart Initiative.

the apple pushers documentary review

Bardo from Guerrero, Mexico in 'The Apple Pushers'

The controversial Green Cart Initiative aims to increase the availability of fresh produce in inner city neighborhoods by creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to set up micro-businesses.  In essence, some 500 street car vendors, including our protagonists, provide a healthier alternative for people making a decision about what to eat in some of what are also New York’s least affluent neighborhoods.  The idea is that in these areas where obesity and obesity-related health issues are most prevalent, in part because of the over saturation of fast food restaurants, the addition of more affordable and accessible fruits and vegetables could lead to healthier eating habits and ultimately better health for these communities.

It’s an interesting argument.  As well as one that introduced a couple of new terms to my vocabulary.  Food deserts or food swamps, as defined by The Apple Pushers, are areas where fast food restaurants and advertisements for fast food restaurants can be found at every corner, and where super markets and fresh produce, by contrast, aren’t as readily available, if at all.

While the topic is definitely captivating, for me what really charms about The Apple Pushers are the personal testimonies of the first generation immigrants themselves.  Their honesty about what they expected before coming to America and what they found when they got here is really pretty hilarious.  It’s also very sincere.  Most importantly, it’s not presented in a way that implores us to feel sorry for the pain and heartache of learning to live in the United States as immigrants.  Some of the vendors tell stories of money growing on trees, falling from the sky and even covering the streets in the United States.

As a child of immigrants myself, I can definitely relate!

the apple pushers documentary review

Shaheen (center) from Bangladesh in 'The Apple Pushers'

In the end, all of the vendors’ stories are interchangeable.  It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Shaheen from Bangladesh or Sahari from Puebla, they’re both facing the same obstacles and opportunities.  The same opportunities, this documentary, produced by award-winning filmmaker Mary Mazzio, argues, all immigrants face and have faced since the initiation of this country.

Narrated by Academy Award nominee Edward Norton, The Apple Pushers is now screening across the country.  It may be coming to a theater near you very soon.

Finally, extra kudos to Mazzio for including all of her production crew’s countries of ancestry in the closing credits!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4fcslPZZIo]

This is not a sponsored post. I did not receive any compensation for the content of this entry. All of the opinions are my own.