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The Dells (2024, 72 mins)

THE DELLS observes the clash between fantasy and reality faced by international student workers newly arrived in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin – the self-described “Waterpark Capital of the World.” Coming from countries like Turkey, Romania, Jamaica, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic, these students land in the American Midwest via the State Department’s Summer Work Travel program. Issued temporary J-1 visas, they work low-paying jobs as lifeguards, housekeepers, and servers, living in dormitories tucked behind a glut of tourist attractions.

The film follows the rhythms of an ensemble cast of “J-1s” as they work, party, and cruise around town in taxis. Students weather the myriad headaches of making ends meet in the US – car troubles, job losses, long work hours – thanks to their friendships and youthful optimism. We see their hopes for a summer of American luck and prosperity rub up against their actual experiences, which are by turns disappointing, funny, and transcendent.

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Screenings & News

World Premiere, Visions du Réel, Nyon, Switzerland, April 2024

Champs Elysees Film Festival, Paris, France, June 2024

Press

On Documentary podcast, with Adam James Smith, May 2024

"The American Way and Other Options," Filmmaker Magazine Visions du Réel write-up by Vadim Rizov, April 2024

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