Liberty: Mother of Exiles – A Bastion of Freedom

The Statue of Liberty in Liberty: Mother of Exiles. Courtesy of HBO.

Liberty: Mother of Exiles shines a light on one of the defining symbols of hope and a bastion of our nation’s freedoms: the Statue of Liberty.

What directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato have done is give us a documentary that spreads a new light on the Statue’s historical past.  The creation of the historic monument dates back to 1865 when Édouard René de Laboulaye first proposed a monument for U.S. independence.  French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was inspired by those comments and the rest is history.  I don’t need to go into the details here because I’m sure you’ve probably been to the Statue or read about it in school.

This documentary takes somewhat of a typical approach.  Yet it does so by way of Diane von Furstenberg’s fundraising campaign.  If you didn’t know, von Furstenberg is the Statue’s “godmother” for leading the fundraising campaign in 2017.  This campaign isn’t because of the Statue needing a restoration.  It is because of the museum inside the Statue’s pedestal is simply too small for the growing attendance each year.  Think about it.  Over four people people visit the Liberty Island annually.  I myself was one of them back in 2015 and can’t wait to go back!

Diane von Furstenberg also has her own immigration story.  Her mother would survive the horrors of Auschwitz during the Holocaust.  The fashion designer first saw the Statue in the 1970s.  Throughout the film, she travels to places or people that help bring a new meaning to the Statue.  Interview subjects include descendants of both Édouard René de Laboulaye and Gustave Eiffel.  One activist in particular stands out for climbing the Statue in protest.

The groundbreaking for the new museum would break ground in 2016.  It would cost some $70 billion before opening this past May.  The museum’s construction more or less serves as the backdrop for the film.  Even though the documentary likely isn’t made without the construction taking place, don’t let this stop you from viewing.

The Phelps Construction Group constructed the new museum.  Company president Doug Phelps puts it best:  “We all have an immigration story.  Everybody here has an immigration story.”

Through the various stories, we’re reminded of the Statue’s importance over the years.  It should come as no surprise.  After all, the Statue has long been home for protests.  When it was first unveiled, women weren’t even allowed to attend!  The Statue of Liberty has taken on a larger meaning during the Trump presidency.  Again, this is because of the immigration battle.  This is a monument that bares poet Emma Lazarus’ sonnet containing the words: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  Think about all the immigrants who came into this country following the Statue of Liberty’s unveiling.  None of them did so without seeing this bastion of liberty and freedom.  It is impossible.

That this film is airing right now should serve as an equally important reminder.  There is a major battle for immigration rights.  One that certainly is not going to be ending anytime soon.  This is truly sad.  Yet again, there is seemingly no end in sight.

All immigrants want is a better life.  This is why people decide to come to the United States of America.  I wouldn’t be here without my ancestors coming to America.  America represents liberty and freedom.  It represents a better life.  Liberty: Mother of Exiles should serve as a timely reminder that America was built on immigrants.

DIRECTORS:  Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato
FEATURING:  Diane Von Ferstenberg

HBO airs Liberty: Mother of Exiles at 9 PM ET/PT on October 17, 2019. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.