Summer in L.A., it's hot. Homeland Security has set the threat level at red; they're searching for several Arabs alleged to be terrorists. Mustafa, an Egyptian immigrant who runs a falafel shop, comes to the FBI's attention; they investigate him. He has other problems: his young teen son no longer wants to be a Muslim; his sister, a nurse, objects to Mustafa arranging her marriage to a cousin from Egypt. She has a non-Arab suitor of her own. Omar, an employee of Mustafa, is a struggling actor who doesn't want to play only terrorists. Mustafa hopes to open a real restaurant and has a potential partner in Sam, a Jew, whose family objects. What price the American dream? Written by
This movie attempts to tell the story of Arab-Americans living in post 9/11 Los Angeles. It is definitely a message film, and its commendable message is that Arabs are human beings just like anyone else, and that they are finding it particularly difficult to cope in the U.S. due to American fears of terrorism and stereotyping. Unfortunately, the message at times seems more important than the story, which is an amalgam of a wide variety of problems facing Arab-Americans today. Consequently, AmericanEast often feels more like a primer on the problems of Arab-Americans than an actual movie. This is best illustrated by one inadvertently humorous segment in which the history of Islam's interactions with the West is presented in a cartoon. Seemingly aimed at easily bored junior high school students, it would be best entitled "Middle East History for Super-Super Dummies" - i.e., typical young Americans. AmericanEast should be strongly praised for its many very real, well portrayed Arab-American characters. If only they were in the service of a more focused plot this would have been a fine film.
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