Saturday, September 12, 2009



AMREEKA It is no secrete that life is extremely difficult for Palestinians living in Israeli occupied West Banks. However, will their struggle be easier if they immigrate to the US? Writer/director Cherien Dabis's semi-biographical first feature "Amreeka" (USA/Canada 2009 | in English/Arabic | 96 min.) humorously gives an insightful look at new lives of Arabic immigrants in the US.

Amreeka means America in Arabic. To a divorced Palestinian mother Muna (Nisreen Faour) and her teenager son Fadi (Melkar Muallem), Amreeka is a wonder land for a new life full of hopes. They abandon their middle class life in their homeland and come to a small town in Illinois to escape the difficult life in West Bank under the Israeli occupation. However, in the backdrop of the First Golf War, Arabic immigrants' lives in America are anything but easy, in additional to the struggle every new immigrant must face. Despite Muna's two degrees and ten years of experience, she cannot find a job other than flipping hamburgers in a fast food joint (with a "Support Our oops" sign outside). Meanwhile, Fadi is experiencing academic and culture challenges at school. Even they all understand that "a tree pulled out by its roots and placed elsewhere, it doesn't grow," they are determined to build a new life and let the tree grow.

In Amreeka, Palestinian immigrant Muna (Nisreen Faour, left) learns how to negotiate the American Midwest with a little help from her sister (Hiam Abbass).

At a certain level, the story in this film echoes every new immigrant's struggle, regardless their origins. Under the current political atmosphere, Arabic immigrants' stories particularly need to be told. Although the dramatic development of the story is somehow familiar and predictable as seen in a television drama, the light humor and the embedded political commentaries make the film interesting. In addition, Nisreen Faour's terrific performance as the charismatic mother Muna is delightful to watch.

"Amreeka" opens on Friday, September 18, 2009 at Bay Area theaters.

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