Documentary ‘In Jackson Heights’ by Frederick Wiseman focuses on South Asian Americans in America’s most diverse neighborhood

167 languages are spoken in the neighborhoods of Jackson heights.

In-Jackson-Heights
A screenshot from In Jackson Heights

By Raif Karerat

With his documentary “In Jackson Heights”, filmmaker Frederick Wiseman delves into the vibrant lives of modern South Asian and South American immigrants living in New York City.

Set against the backdrop of Jackson heights, a cultural melting pot where 167 languages are reportedly spoken, Wiseman’s newest offering observes immigrants from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal and those from Peru, Colombia, and Mexico, as they interact with the Jewish-, Irish-, and Italian-origin residents of New York’s crowded streets.

“I had no knowledge of Jackson Heights before the film,” Wiseman said during an interview with amNewYork. “I spent a day there in 2007 and another day there in the early spring of 2014, and that was it. What appealed to me was, walking around, the nature of the community. It’s different religions, races, ethnicities — immigrants from so many different countries. I was interested in doing a movie about new immigrants to America, since America is a country of immigrants.”

“Jackson Heights” is the latest in a long line of poignant documentaries from the 85-year-old Wiseman. Previous examples of his work that have focused on geographic locations, just as “Jason Heights” did, include “Belfast, Maine” (1999), “Aspen” (1991), and “Central Park” (1990).