Out of Many, One

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Out of Many, One Movie Poster Image
Short docu follows folks striving to become U.S. citizens.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 34 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Shows that new U.S. citizens, who come from a variety of other places, are grateful, deserving, and informed. Each of their stories is personal, significant; their reasons for immigrating to the U.S. varied.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Prospective citizens are enthusiastic, determined, and, in some cases, brave. The teachers from NY Historical Society's "Citizenship Project" are dedicated, compassionate, and well-informed.


One applicant recounts the threats on her life.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Out of Many, One is a short documentary (34 minutes) about the New York Historical Society's "Citizenship Project," a program that guides prospective U.S. citizens through the application process and prepares them for the test they will take. As the students learn from their teachers in a series of classroom activities and field trips, the viewers learn something about a number of their new countrymen and women. Other than one applicant's recounting of the threats on her life, the film is uplifting, family-friendly, and gives a positive portrait of immigrants and the legal immigration process. Recommended for middle grades and up.

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What's the story?

Working with eager, serious-minded people who are committed to their goals, Samantha Rijkers (a naturalized American herself) conducts a citizenship class in OUT OF ONE, MANY. Over a period of weeks, students study maps, reflect on a number of historical paintings, and are given important facts about the United States, enabling them to both pass the Citizenship Test and better understand the principles that define the country. Along the way, directors John Hoffman and Nanfu Wang spend considerable time with some of the students in interviews. Viewers learn about Jian Zhang, who came to the U.S. to earn his Ph.D. in physics and now teaches. They visit with the Aristizabal family from Columbia, who, having lived in the U.S. for decades, want to attain legal status. Viewers meet Fanny Bello, Venezuelan's former Minister of Agriculture, who seeks asylum because of her resistance to Hugo Chavez, former dictator of the country. The film concludes with two intercut ceremonies, led by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and District Judge William Kuntz, as the grateful candidates are sworn in.

Is it any good?

In a climate where "immigrant" has become a disparaging designation in some circles, John Hoffman and Nanfu Wang offer an alternative look at a group of inspiring folks who want to become citizens. Out of Many, One doesn't try to tell the whole story. It is simply a concise, clear-eyed portrait of a few. Introducing a number of lucky participants in the New York Historical Society's program "The Citizenship Project," the movie is just long enough to hold the attention of kids who will certainly benefit from hearing their stories. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the title of the film -- Out of Many, One, which is a translation of "E Pluribus Unum" -- as it was conceived in 1792 by the Founding Fathers. What does the motto mean? 

  • How does Fanny Bello's story clarify the notion of "seeking asylum" in the U.S.? What are some other reasons immigrants may seek asylum?

  • Why is it important to see those aspiring to live in the U.S. as distinct individuals and not a generic collective?

  • What does the U.S.A. mean to you? Imagine that you are from another country and want to live in the U.S., then write a letter giving your reasons for wanting to become a citizen.

Movie details

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