Friday, January 15, 2010

Making a new life in Amreeka, Palestinian-style

Amreeka. This is where Muna, a single mother from Bethlehem, and her teenage son, Fadi, find themselves. When a long-forgotten green card application is accepted, the pair leaves behind harrowing border checks, the increasing inconvenience imposed on Palestinians, and their family to try life in Illinois with Muna’s sister. While the youngest cousin instructs Fadi on what to wear so as not to look like a FOB (fresh off the boat), Muna struggles to find a job. Set as America is invading Iraq, Fadi is faced with hostility at school, Muna discovers her two degrees and 10 years of experience mean nothing, and patients at her brother-in-law’s medical practice are walking out every day. 

A story of family, discrimination, and understanding, Amreeka will take you through the hard times and the moments filled with laughter and dancing as Muna and Fadi struggle to find their places in America.

In her debut feature, director Cherien Dabis makes strong observations without being repetitive. While she doesn’t focus on religion in the film, she shows her viewers some of the intricacies of religious identity and blanket generalizations: Muna’s family are Christian Palestinians, yet in small-town Illinois they are assumed to be both extremist and Muslim simply because they are Arab. And Muna’s understated new friend, one of the few who doesn’t discriminate against her family, is a Polish Jew. Dabis highlights these and other ironies and injustices simply, slipping them quietly into the family’s everyday life.

Winner of 4 awards and nominated for 6 more in 2009, Amreeka is definitely a movie to see.

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