Amreeka (USA/Canada/Kuwait; 96 min.)

directed by: Cherien Dabis
starring: Nisreen Faour, Hiam Abbass, Melkar Muallem, Alia Shawkat, Joseph Ziegler

Bruce says: "Muna (Nisreen Faour) is a single parent raising her son Fadi (Melkar Muallem) in Bethlehem.  Each day they spend considerable time negotiating checkpoints, often humiliated by Israeli soldiers.  Muna works at a bank and Fadi attends private school in hope he will have a future.  But what kind of future might that be?  In their current circumstances they are doubly cursed, being Arab and non-Muslim.  There is no place to fit in.  Muna’s sister Raghda Halaby (Hiam Abbass) long ago suggested Muna apply for a US visa.  Having almost forgotten about it, Muna is shocked when she receives notice that their visas are approved.  She and Fadi have the chance for a better life in Illinois where Raghda, her husband and three children are pursuing the American dream.  Fadi will be able to go to college; Muna will get a job in an American bank. 

"Timing is everything.  The visa approval arrives shortly after 9/11.  What no one in the family foresees is the post 9/11 anger the average American will express towards anyone who appears to be Arab or Muslim.   Raghda’s husband, a well-respected doctor in the community, begins to lose his client base.   Muna cannot find a job in a bank but finds one at a White Castle which is across a parking lot from a bank where she pretends to work to save face.  The kids are taunted at school.  Mr. Novatski (Joseph Ziegler), the school counselor, tries to help as best he can.  He is surprised when he stumbles upon Muna at the White Castle and vows to keep her place of employment a secret.  'What have we to do with Iraq?' Muna asks.  Tensions at the Halaby household are escalating as Dr. Halaby loses more patients; before long he and Raghda are no longer sleeping together.  Fadi implores Muna to return home.  In a turnabout, Raghda confesses to Muna, 'If it were up to me I’d get on a plane and go home tomorrow.'  Can their American experienced be reversed or is it too late to go back?

"AMREEKA is an enjoyable film in spite of the seemingly unavoidable clichés of the immigrant experience in the United States.  Muna’s English is purposefully awkward, the kind one might pick up on the streets if one came to this country speaking not a word of English.  The high school students are also stereotyped which slightly diminishes the impact of the narrative.  In spite of these complaints AMREEKA is probably closer to the truth than I would like to admit.  It was a pleasant surprise to find Hiam Abbass playing an Israeli Arab.  Cherien Dabis uses music well to enhance the moment throughout the film.  Much fun is made of signs and graffiti, whether it is vicious high school students writing 'Al Kada' on the Halaby car or a billboard that says, 'Support Our oops.'  3.5 cats  

"(AMREEKA  was screened as part of the New Directors/New Films festival sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA.)"

Diane says: "A mother and son leave their home in Palestine for the U.S. just when
anti-Arab sentiment reaches a height in America post 9/11. While the duo experience the usual immigrant setbacks, the film avoids predictability. It reminded me of WENDY AND LUCY receiving compassion and cruelty from strangers.

"Lead actress Nisreen Faour is incredibly charming. Unfortunately for those who've seen THE VISITOR, a character played by Joseph Ziegler doubles the look, demeanor, and dramatic purpose of Richard Jenkins' role in that film. 4 cats"