Local opening date: November 20, 2009
Reviewed by Diane Carson
Amreeka, the Arab word for America, is a small, lovely film that follows
characters who look, talk and act like real people in recognizable situations.
The plot first intercepts its central, Palestinian mother Muna, as she
awkwardly encounters her ex-husband and his new wife in a West Bank market.
Further irritated by her and 16-year-old son Fadi's harassment as they return
from Ramallah to their home in Bethlehem where the mail includes her green
card, Muna decides to join her sister's family living near Chicago. Muna and
Fadi's bumpy integration into American society contains humor without ever
undercutting the difficulties.
an unfortunate and revealing immigration encounter, Muna must answer a question
about her country of origin, "We have none." "Occupation?" "Yes, we are." Such
exchanges say a great deal without any grandstanding or preaching. Further, in
our distressed economy, it's easy to empathize with Muna's struggle to find
gainful employment, especially at the bank manager's level she held in Ramallah
and now seeks. Undaunted, upbeat but decidedly embarrassed lest her family find
out, she takes a job at a White Castle pretending to work at the bank next door
where her sister drops her off. Amusing encounters follow. Meantime less
happily Fadi begins high school as a junior, in class with his cousin.
would have been so easy to demonize and exaggerate these non-Muslim,
Palestinian-Americans' post-9/11 problems, not that they don't encounter their
fair share. Muna's physician brother-in-law finds his patients leaving without
explanation. He and we know why. But writer/director Cherien Dabis finds the
humanity in all of this, including a Jewish teacher's responsiveness and
understanding. Amreeka also soars
with the warmth of Nisreen Faour's appealing performance. Technically, the
music and sound fits with every scene in which it occurs and the art direction
keeps it real.
its touching depiction of, and affection for, lives carefully observed and
humanely presented, Amreeka won the
Critics Prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. In English with some
Arabic with English subtitles. At Landmark's Plaza Frontenac Cinema.
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