A Documentary That Fails To Really Say Anything
Out Of Many, One is a short Netflix documentary about immigrants trying to gain citizenship to the United States. Instead of tackling hard hitting questions and stigmas surrounding this highly sensitive subject, Out Of Many, One instead focuses on the human aspect and the artistic history of the United States of America. At a run time of 34 minutes, the documentary is a fleeting experience at best and one that fails to really address any issues on the topic.
After a brief speech from the Justice Court, we’re introduced to a group of hopeful immigrants on the verge of taking their American Citizenship Test. Following Donald Trump’s changing policies around immigration last year, the New York Historical Society launched a program to help guide legal immigrants through the myriad of different questions likely to come up on the test.
To help them along the way, key moments in American history are explored through famous paintings, taught by a Dutch speaker, who herself gained citizenship years earlier. Through the art work we learn about some of the questions likely to come up on the test and between those moments we take a very brief look at some of the members of this hopeful group. With the bulk of the run time used discussing these pieces of art, the pacing is very slow, even for a 34 minute documentary.
Those expecting a hard-hitting film discussing the trials and tribulations of immigrants and the growing hostility toward them across parts of the country may be left wanting. This documentary does do an okay job introducing us to the various people taking the test but we’re never given enough time with them, nor is there any sort of rising tension or empathy toward these people as they eventually go on to pass their test and gain citizenship. It’s a really odd choice and something a longer run time may have benefited from.
Even with its short run time, Out Of Many, One tells us next to nothing during its run time. We learn a little about the legal immigrants taking the test but aren’t given enough time to warm to their cause. We learn a little about American history but not enough for this to be considered educational. What we’re left with then is a 34 minute film that almost tells a story but fails to really tell us anything, making it a very nice but very forgettable picture.