Every night while the city sleeps, Ahmad, a former rock star in his native Pakistan, drags his heavy cart along the streets of New York. And every morning, he sells coffee and donuts to a city he cannot call his own. One... more » day, the pattern of this harsh existence is broken by a glimmer of hope for a better life. DVD Extras:
Commentary with director Ramin Bahrani, cinematographer Michael Simmonds, assistant director Nicholas Elliott and actor Ahmad Razvi
Short Films by the director ("Bad Reception" with Lisa Bonet, "Dogs")
"'Man Push Cart' is an absorbing slice-of-life movie. Many accolades have been heaped upon it, but it's availablity has been obscure for so long, which is a real shame. I have to admit that I was suspicious from the previews that it would be one of those "noble" entries one finds that becomes drawn out and tedious. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find how accessible and enjoyable this film really is.
Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi) is a typical immigrant protagonist. Coming from Pakistan, he lives and works in New York City, the quintessential immigrant city: One that's filled with opportunity as well as bewildering urban bustle and stress. Like many with ingenuity, he has his own business. He's a street vendor who sells hot beverages to commuters on a busy city street. The portrait of him and his life unfolds along the way in ways that are engaging and colorful.
Soon we find out that he has come to the one year anniversary of his wife's death, and he has been estranged to his son, Sajjad, whom his inlaws have custody. He is a hard worker, like so many immigrants, and this initiative pays off with one customer who hires him to do some work on an apartment. It is during this liason that we learn that Ahmad was famous previously, but I won't divulge the nature here. However, this new business associate gets him some new business for which he was famous, and from here he meets a lovely Spanish immigrant (Leticia Dolera) who becomes his new love interest.
He does what he can, but he seems to have to choose between love and money, welfare and family along the way. He has a friend named Muhammad (Charles Daniel Sandoval) who checks up on him, and from their conversations we pick up on their lives. Reflecting on making ends meet Ahmad says, "[It] Gets harder for people like you and me...What I need to do, I'll do." What makes 'Man Push Cart' so worthwhile is the intimate view of his struggles and motivations--what makes him tick and the decisions he makes to have a better life.
Complications develop and some of the movie borrows a bit from Italy's classic 'The Bicycle Thief,' but the story is so authentically presented that it feels like a documentary of real people than it does a movie rehash. The direction by Ramin Bahrani is excellent for making us walk in the shoes of Ahmad and feel the struggle of his journey."
Marvelous portrait of modern immigrant life
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 12/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Man Push Cart" is a very sad movie, though not entirely bleak or depressing. It is the story of Ahmad, a Pakistani man who has immigrated to America and struggles to get ahead while working as a push-cart street vendor. Much of the movie is taken up with long, slow shots of his actual, physical struggle -- Ahmad is renting his cart and doesn't have enough money for a car, so he has to pull the cart across busy New York city streets in the pre-dawn hours, as traffic starts to pick up. Midday, when his coffee and bagels have been sold, he hauls the cart back to the garage, wanders around midtown Manhattan for a while, then takes the subway back to a tiny apart in the outer borroughs, where he briefly sleeps, only to get up at 3:00am and start his daily routine all over again.
The film defies may expectations and cliches... To begin with, Ahmad didn't come to America to "get ahead": as we slowly learn a part of his history, we discover that he was once a popular musician in Pakistan, and that he emigrated here to follow the woman he loved. The story of their marriage and its end is Ahmad's great tragedy, but we are never given the whole story, only glimpses into the past, and the film also never explains Ahmad's reluctance to be a musician again. He never likes talking about it, and when his new acquaintances discover that he was once a famous performer, he simply demurs and avoids discussing it. Others sing in this film, but Ahmad does not. His reluctance talk about himself is explained obliquely -- in one scene, we see him hanging out with some friends, listening impassively as one man trots another in front of a crowd of barflies and insists that he "Tell your story! Tell your story!" For whatever reason, Ahmad doesn't want his life to be reduced to just another story that's told around the bar, as if cataloging his experience would reduce it to nothingness, or wrest control of his own story away from him. He already put himself on display, back in Pakistan, and now, here in America, he chooses to just live his life, not share it with strangers.
Although "Man Push Cart" is a powerful, subtle depictation of the modern immigrant experience, it is also an important commentary on the current climate of "reality"-based media, where average people aspire to be seen on TV, and have their tiniest flaws projected across the landscape of popular culture. Ahmad, who once had actual fame, let go of it for love, and now finding himself at the bottom heap of society, chooses to stay there, anonymous and self-contained. He is not a happy man, but in a strange way, he seems contented.
Apparently his character is being reprised in director Ramin Bahrani's next film, "Chop Shop." Whether more of Ahmad's past will be revealed is uncertain; in some ways, I hope it remains unknown. At any rate, this is a very good film, which you will find engrossing from start to finish. The parts of the story that are unresolved or unknown are actually its greatest strengths, and one of the elements that make this film so distinctive. Highly recommended! (Slipcue film reviews)"
Unrelentingly Sad, But Perhaps Still Worthwhile
Irfan A. Alvi | Towson, MD USA | 06/22/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I thought that "Chop Shop" was among the best movies I've ever seen, so watching "Man Push Cart" seemed to be a logical next step.
The two movies are similar, but there's a key difference: while both movies vividly and poignantly depict the struggles of people in the bottom stratum of society (particularly in urban environments), "Chop Shop" manages to weave in some vitally uplifting elements, whereas "Man Push Cart" is unrelentingly bleak.
I came away from the movie feeling rather sad about the hopeless and perhaps even dehumanizing life represented by the lead character, and I can't think of any lessons I could glean from the movie, other than remembering to have empathy for those less fortunate and to appreciate my own circumstances ... having just said that, maybe these lessons aren't so minor after all? In any case, although this movie isn't a masterpiece like "Chop Shop," I'm still giving "Man Push Cart" four stars because it at least masterfully depicts what it (presumably) intended to depict.
As far as whether I can recommend the movie, that's hard to say. If you're looking for a movie which is at all uplifting, perhaps look elsewhere. If you liked "Chop Shop," maybe give it a try, but keep in mind that "Chop Shop" is far superior (in my opinion). And if you're still not sure, I'd say go ahead and watch the movie; even if you feel sad at the end, the movie provides a powerful experience which is probably worth having.
10/1/09 Amendment: This is among a very small group of movies that continued to powerfully affect me months after I watched them. The Amazon system doesn't let me change my rating, but I wanted to note that I now consider this to be a 5-star movie which I highly recommend."
'The struggle itself is enough to fill a man's heart.'
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 11/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The struggle itself . . . is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy"--Albert Camus.
Inspired by Camus' essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, Ramin Bahrani's 2005 film, Man Push Cart, tells the poignant story of a Pakistani immigrant, Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi), who sells coffee and bagels from his heavy push cart on the streets of Manhattan. Comparing the absurdity of life to Sisyphus, who was condemned to forever repeat the same meaningless task of pushing a rock up a mountain, only to see it roll down again, Camus' essay confronts man's futile search for meaning in the face of an existence devoid of God and eternal truths.
Similarly, Ahmad, a former Pakistani rock star, struggles to earn a living by selling coffee, bagels, donuts rolls, and porn to Manhattan commuters every morning from his push cart. His lonely days begin every morning by pushing his cart through the darkness. His pushcart defines his existence. His wife has died. A job at Dunkin Donuts is considered living the good life. It is a harsh existence, which Ahmad endures with dignity and depth of character. Although he dreams that a young Spanish woman (Leticia Dolera) working in a newspaper kiosk, and a fellow Pakistani (Charles Daniel Sandoval) will offer him possibilities of a better life, he cannot escape the routine of his desperate existence in a city of endless possibilities. Ahmad represents the worker found on every street corner dreaming of a better life.
The film's cinematography is mesmerizing, and the film's story is simple, and moving, and thought provoking. This DVD features commentary by director Ramin Bahrani, cinematographer Michael Simmonds, assistant director Nicholas Elliott and actor Ahmad Razvi, and the theatrical trailer.
A stark portrait of grief. (And warning: a spoiler review.)
D | 09/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There's been a lot of discussion on this movie about the bleak, Sisyphean nature of Ahmad the food cart vendor's life and what it tells us about making a living as an immigrant floating somewhere on the margins of American society. I agree that Ahmad works very hard for very little. He toils away at a literally back-breaking job (lacking a car, he pulls his cart to and from his corner every day), hustles bootleg porn for a few extra dollars, and at the end of the day, it still feels like two steps forward, one step back. Of course Ahmad is overwhelmed. Of course he's depressed, lonely, frustrated, and seemingly suffocated with exhaustion.
This isn't, however, just a film about the hard-won futility of immigrant life; this is a film about grief. Why does Ahmad push his cart and his porn, day in and day out? Yeah, he needs to save up money so that he can afford to have his son live with him again. Yeah, he's a recent immigrant in New York City trying to get a foothold on a new life. But I think that Ahmad doesn't simply work through this grind because he has no other choice. He's a famous singer back in Pakistan, young, good-looking, smart, and fluent in English. In the film, he has a few opportunities to improve his situation and bungles them. Ahmad is not just constrained by socieconomic forces. He is constrained by his grief over losing his wife.
The melodramatic view of grief is that it disrupts the flow of everyday life; Ahmad should be shooting up, trying to kill himself, or at least not showing up for work on time. The more realistic expression of grief, however, is that not knowing what else to do in the face of substantial loss, we can only think to do what we already know. It's a coping mechanism, and more than just being an immigrant trying to get by, Ahmad is a grief-stricken widow stuck on autopilot. Even if he could let go of his grief, he might not want to. What else does he have left of his life with his wife besides this cart and the routine they once shared operating it?
That said, this movie fleshes out these ideas better than any other I've seen in awhile, in a style that's stark, minimalistic, and yet realistically nuanced. I felt like the friend who happened to be standing nearby as scenes unfold and picking up on all the stuff that makes us glance away uneasily: the ambivalent body language, the tense innuendos, the ethical gray matter of social conflicts. This is a wonderfully perceptive movie; not an uplifting one, and honestly, not an easy one to watch, but wonderfully perceptive.
(As a bonus, watch out for other little behavioral snapshots this movie captures really well. Two of my personal favorites: the tense, uneasy stares of New Yorkers waiting for coffee on a cold workday morning, and the swagger of young city Desis.)"