Though Vargas was living in the Bay Area with fake residency documents, his mission was to acquire a citizen’s cultural fluency. Movies in particular made visible the immensity and diversity of America; they also taught him a key lesson on how the experiences and renderings of a single place can differ, depending on who’s telling the story. After watching four distinct films set in New York City, Vargas marvels, “How can Martin Scorsese’s New York City be the same as Woody Allen’s New York City, which is not the same thing as Spike Lee’s New York City and Mike Nichols’s New York City?”
When Jose Antonio Vargas came out as undocumented in the pages of the New York Times seven years ago, he had no idea what would happen next. Before he published that essay, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant,” Vargas was best known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter. He’d achieved the career he had been working toward ever since he was a teenager, all while keeping his immigration status carefully hidden.