Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Amreeka ***

Director: Cherien Dabis
Cast: Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass
Yussuf Abu-Warda, Alia Shawkat, Joseph Ziegler, Andrew Sannie
Daniel Boiteau, Brodie Sanderson

The Iraqi invasion has just begun and Palestinian woman Muna (Faour) and her son Fadi (Muallem) move to the USA after winning a green card lottery.
Muna's sister (Abbass) lives there with her husband (Abu-Warda) and daughters and they help them settle down.
They soon face troubles related to discrimination, cultural differences and homesickness.
Cherien Dabis directorial debut is the kind of film you feel you've seen a million times before, but somehow end up enjoying just the same.
We see Muna work in a fast food restaurant where her charm wins over her co-workers (and even the bank employee from the place where she pretends to work to make her family proud), while Fadi is bullied by jocks and experiences marijuana and parking lot conversations with his cousin Salma (Shawkat).
Touching, funny performances and some witty dialogues help "Amreeka" from moving into extreme territory. While most films either decide Arab characters should give in under the pressure of a new world and become full out terrorists and others simply make them martyrs, this one chooses the most unexpected path by remaining still.
Dabis' love for her characters (it's understandable when we see she dedicates the film to her family) helps her make them very real, even when playing conventional roles, because she goes beyond the political context to ask if the real problem isn't the USA or the Middle East, but actually a whole world that's become soulless.
"If we don't belong here, then where do we belong" asks Muna to her son, while Dabis urges us to see beyond the news and aim for universal changes.


Luke said...

Huh. So, I totally had ignored this movie up until glancing at the cast list in your review and noticing to personal favorites (one old and one new) in it: my love for Maeby Funke will get me to watch anything Alia Shawkat is in, and The Visitor made me realize how Hiam Abbass was totally robbed of getting any critical notice last year...

Luke said...

Just watched this one. It was a lovely little movie. I thought the lead was fantastic and understated. Great performance.