A drama centered on the trials and tribulations of a proud Palestinian Christian immigrant single mother and her teenage son in small town Indiana.A drama centered on the trials and tribulations of a proud Palestinian Christian immigrant single mother and her teenage son in small town Indiana.A drama centered on the trials and tribulations of a proud Palestinian Christian immigrant single mother and her teenage son in small town Indiana.
Unfortunately in the rest of the film things do not go as well for the young family. They have to deal with numerous incidents of overt and covert racism including bullying at school as they try to adjust to a new home and a new country. Things start off badly when Muna and Fadi are harassed for three hours at the airport by Israeli customs and a tin box filled with cookies and all of their savings are handed over by Fadi to customs officials. Fadi does not say anything to his mother about this (a most unlikely circumstance) and the loss is only discovered after the two arrive at the home of relatives in Illinois. From there, things go steadily south. Muna tries to get a job in her profession in a bank but is rejected by employers who look at all Arabs as potential terrorists.
Ending up working at a burger joint, Muna conceals her employment from her relatives, pretending to work at a bank close to the restaurant, but her shame is apparent. Meanwhile Fadi is tormented by school bullies who call him Osama and her relatives begin to bicker over their increased expenses at the time when the family breadwinner, a physician (Yussef Abu Warda), is losing clients because of his Arab appearance. While people need to be reminded of the hurt of racism and the Arabs contribution to the world, Amreeka offers one contrived subplot after another in which Americans are caricatures of either hate-filled racists or Christ-like saviors like Mr. Novatski (Joseph Ziegler), Fadi's principal (who happens to be Jewish).
What could have been an excellent opportunity to explore the problems of assimilation or the treatment of minorities instead becomes a litany of clichés. There is no mention of 9-11, issues involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the problem of bullying in schools, and the possibility of involving teachers, school officials, or even the neighborhood church in helping the immigrant family to cope are not examined. While Amreeka has moments of charm and likability and the performances are excellent, the exercise quickly becomes a big screen version of "As the World Turns", doomed by an overly simplistic approach in which victimization substitutes for cooperation in finding solutions.
- Nov 9, 2009