Director: Cherien Dabis
Sometimes what you see on the outside is not the same as it is on the inside. To the world, United States of America is a land of dreams however post 9/11 everything changed and especially for Muslims it became a living nightmare. ‘Amreeka’ is an artful film, a touching story about how assumptions are built against a group or race in a country touted to be world’s greatest.
Inspired from her own story, writer-director Cherien Dabis narrates the story of an immigrant family constituting of a recently divorced mother, Muna Farah and her son Fadi who move to Illinois after a long-forgotten visa application is approved. Lovely, overweight and a holder of two degrees with ample years of experience in banking, Muna still finds it extremely hard to find a job in the states. Eventually, she gives in to work as a hamburger slinger at white-castle to make both ends meet. Accused to have come from the land of Osama, Muna and her son encounter ignoramuses and bullies however with the help of few well-wishers such as Fadi’s school principal – Mr. Novatski and a bank employee, the mother-son find solace and live life harmoniously.
The film brings to light three perspectives – first, life in the United States is not the way it’s been hyped, it’s so much different. Second, one has to quickly get accustomed to a new place than complaining. And third, if one Muslim is an extremist doesn’t necessarily mean other Muslims are extremists too.
What’s inspiring and intelligent about this film is the fact that the director didn’t try to prove which country’s the best. However, what she did manage to do was draw a parallel between the two nations that have been fighting each other for several years and how many lives been hampered. Neither is America bad nor is Palestine good but one needs to understand that both the places have its own pros and cons and they most definitely are not the way they’ve been stereotyped or advertized.
The director also takes through the eyes of the youngsters in the states and how they treat one another, precisely an outsider. Not even education helps them in this regard but only converts them in to political hypocrites who tend to use education as a medium to instigate the divide. Muna and her family were targeted because they were immigrants Muslims according to the Americans; however they actually were Christians’.
Performance wise, Nisreen Faour aka Muna steals the limelight effortlessly. Her role as struggling, highly-responsible mother who sleeps at night with fear in heart, doesn’t pass without adulation. Melkar as Fadi plays his part quite well while Hiam Abbass as Muna’s sister syncs perfectly into her role. She plays this role of a wife, mother of three children American, whose heart still longs for going back home – to Palestine.
In essence, ‘Amreeka’ leaves you with the thought that sometimes it only matters where you’ve come from but not what you’ve brought along.