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LA CIUDAD, the feature film debut of writer/director David Riker, is a dramatically photographed collection of stories of love, hope, and loss, and an affecting portrait of disenfranchised Latin American immigrants living in New York. Filmed over the course of six years in the 1990s, LA CIUDAD takes us inside this community of newcomers, creating a powerful and incisive drama about the loneliness, displacement, and economic hardship which they face in the new and unfamiliar world of the city.
The film is made up of four separate stories: A worker paid to gather bricks from an abandoned lot is crushed when a wall collapses; a young man having just arrived from Mexico meets and falls in love with a girl from his home village at a Sweet 15 party, then loses her in the maze of a housing project; a homeless puppeteer dreams of a better life for his daughter, but when he tries to enroll her in school he is turned away because he has no proof of residency; and a seamstress needs to send money home to help pay for her daughter's medical treatment, but the sweatshop where she works has not paid her for more than a month.
In creating this film, director Riker strove for authenticity both in the stories he tells and in the characters he portrays. He spent five years developing the film within the Latin American community, and chose to cast non-actors in almost every role. Because most of the performers are themselves struggling immigrants, they bring a resonant understanding and realism to the film. The film began as a short film, which won the 1995 Student Academy Award for Best Dramatic Short and the Director's Guild of America Best Student Film Award.