Winter 2010 Features series
Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 4:00pm
Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 7:00pm
Directed by Cherien Dabis
Screenplay by Cherien Dabis
Starring Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Yussuf Abu-Warda
Rated 14A ·
English and Arabic
One of the most talked-about works at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Amreeka is a stunning addition to the genre known as social realism – those films that employ largely unknown or non-actors to convey situations reflecting some of the more sobering, harsh realities of the world today. This humanistic film is deeply touching on many levels.
New York-based filmmaker Cherien Dabis was born to Palestinian-Jordanian immigrants, and her remarkable first feature tells a story very close to home. The narrative revolves around protagonist Muna, a Palestinian woman who is happy to get a green card to the United States and thereby leave her West Bank home. She sets off with her teenaged son, Fadi, and settles in small-town Illinois with her sister’s family.
The journey, of course, is riddled with trouble. Challenges arise from the get-go as Muna is interrogated at the airport and left humiliated and furious when her tin of cookies is confiscated – it contained all the money she had in the world.
The film’s setting in the early days of the Iraq insurgency adds a devastating intensity to Muna’s plight – everyone from her region is treated like a suspect. Though she was a bank clerk in Ramallah, the only job she can find in her new home is flipping burgers, and her son has anything but an easy time trying to get by in the disastrous social Petri dish that is high school.
Yet despite these grim circumstances, redemption and survival are indeed possible within the world of the film, in no small part due to Mona’s infectious optimism and great spirit. This is an evocative feature telling a story that really must be told, from a perspective we are not always privy to – the everyday, hard-working person caught up in events she certainly did not have any control over but which have affected the entire course of her life. Amreeka is riveting viewing.