As America reels from the overnight loss of tens of millions of jobs and as a recession of a kind not seen in a century looms ominously on the horizon, Director Brendan J. Byrne (Bobby Sands: 66 Days) trains his timely lens on one of New York’s darkest secrets; an island where one million ‘have-not’ American souls are buried. Narrated by Oscar winner Sam Rockwell. Watch now on QFT Player.
‘If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere…’
But what happens if you don’t make it in New York? What happens if you fall so far short of success in the world’s most iconic city that you can’t even afford to be buried properly? Less than 16 miles from central Manhattan lies Hart Island, a 101-acre cemetery and the final resting place of over one million New Yorkers. But this is no ordinary cemetery. This is the last stop on the journey of the city’s unclaimed dead.
From the brief lives of babies who died in hospital, to the lost lives of parents who drifted into poverty and oblivion, One Million American Dreams follows four families trying to reconcile themselves to the tragic stories of their loved ones who ended up in a cheap pine box at the bottom of a Hart Island trench. Binding their stories together is the fidelity of family love and the unquenchable courage of life that transcends the darkness of death.
Until December 4th 2019, Hart Island was run by the city’s Department of Correction, which employed inmates from nearby Rikers Island to carry out weekly interments: poor and forgotten prisoners burying poor and forgotten people for 50 cents an hour. Now, after a long political battle, which culminated in the transfer of jurisdiction to the Department of Parks and Recreation, these burials continue daily. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of burials in America’s largest public cemetery has spiked to levels not seen for decades, providing the television news with images that shocked the world as hired labour in hazmat suits buried the dead.
One Million American Dreams lifts the lid on one of the world’s most iconic cities in a gripping portrait of brave families searching for hope amidst the harsh reality of the American dream.
Watch One Million American Dreams on QFT Player for £2.99 (no subscription necessary).