Americans need and deserve a movie like “Amreeka,” and you can ditto the rest of the world on that sentiment. Beginning in modern-day Palestine, Cherien Dabis’ drama settles on the story of a teenage boy, his hardworking mother and the extended family.
All have emigrated from the West Bank at a fragile time, just after America’s invasion of Iraq, when self-aggrandizing citizens delude themselves into orgies of patriotism, when they are, in fact, common thugs.
“Amreeka” is not out to rail against these elements. Instead, this sensitive and probing drama shines considerable light on the perils accompanying immigration.
DIRECTED BY: Cherien Dabis
STARRING: Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Alia Shawkat, Yussef Abu Warda and Joseph Ziegler
RUNNNING TIME: 97 minutes
Though bigotry exists, Americans are portrayed as decent citizens riled up by propaganda. But when the incendiary dust settles, we witness the emergence of decency. Good people like the high school principal, a Jew, whose experiences give him insight and the quality of compassion. Even the crass manager of a fast-food joint (White Castle) comes around, realizing that emotional truth trumps long-standing prejudice.
The central figure is Muna, (Nisreen Faour), abandoned by her husband, and as a new visitor to the States, trying to adjust with a new job beneath her qualifications. If her sister (Hiam Abbass, from “The Visitor”) musters compassion for her sibling, it does not help that her husband, a hard-working doctor, is turning into a bitter man. And then there is the boy, who has to endure more problems than those that arrive with adolescence.
“Amreeka” is enriched by its nuances, its sensitive and intelligent attention to character. It’s the kind of movie I wish more Americans would see, especially teens. It is, for sure, one of the finest movies of the year, as well as a uniquely American experience.
Reach film critic Dan DiNicola at [email protected]