As someone who worked on Ellis Island in New York's harbor, I can readily attest to the fact that this is an outstanding documentary about "The Island of Hope, The Island of Tears." Mandy Patinkin hosts this three part film that showcases not just the history of Ellis Island and how America processed immigrants before it was built but also tells the very human story of how people from all over the world came to Ellis Island hoping desperately for a better life as American citizens.
There is the story of Castle Garden which was built to process immigrants before Ellis Island; and we see how the first buildings on Ellis Island were ruined by fire only a few short years after they opened. There is the story of how a half a million dollars was spent on a new set of buildings constructed of fireproof materials; and the footage of joyous newcomers sailing into the harbor as they first laid eyes on America with its Statue of Liberty is impressive and moving at once.
There are many, many stories of how people were processed over the years until the facility was closed in late 1954; some of the tales are thrilling but others quite heartbreaking. For example, families could be separated if one or two members were rejected because it was thought they might be too ill to enter--thus, some members of the family could enter and others were forced to return home, perhaps never to see their loved ones again. Still others committed suicide by jumping into the water rather than return to a life of misery in their native countries.
Yet for all the incredibly sad tales, we see just how hard the staff worked on Ellis Island to process and accept as many immigrants as possible. Kitchen employees cooked ethnic meals; and social workers and interpreters worked with immigrants to help them. Actually, there is so much more as to exactly how they processed immigrants over the decades--but I'll leave the rest for you to discover as you watch the film!
I highly recommend this documentary for anyone studying immigration and its history. True, there were other ports through which people entered America; but New York's Ellis Island was by far the largest port for people entering a new country. This is educational and poignant indeed!