In 1974, two daring students explore abandoned Ellis Island (video)

My grandfather came through Ellis Island in 1914 and it's always held a special place in my imagination. Nothing embodies the contradictions and duality of America more perfectly, sending two simultaneous but opposing messages: immigrants — come here to the land of opportunity and be free. And immigrants — think long and hard before coming because a lot of Americans are parochial, small minded a-holes who do not want you here.

The New York Times op-doc series of short films is always interesting and this one doesn't fail. In 1974, two student filmmakers snuck onto Ellis Island, which at that point had been closed down for twenty years.

"…by 1974, when we were students and made the short documentary above, it was in decay. At that time, the buildings were abandoned and inaccessible to the public, and the famous ferry that shuttled immigrants from the island to Manhattan sank in a storm in 1968. To two teenagers from New Jersey, Ellis Island was a forbidden mystery that was tantalizingly close to shore, so we began venturing to the island in a tiny rowboat with a 16-millimeter camera."

I love that this film still exists and that someone took the time and expense to transfer it to HD. It's only seven minutes and it's worth a watch if that lost moment in time has any meaning to you.

And I'm so grateful that Ellis Island wasn't torn down — it was opened to tourists in 1990. IMHO, the Statue of Liberty is not worth visiting, but Ellis Island is fabulous, a window back in time to an era when America was still young and a beacon of democratic values.

This short film explores how immigrant children have to deal with anglicizing their names