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Amreeka (2009)

PG-13 | | Drama | 17 June 2009 (France)
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A drama centered on the trials and tribulations of a proud Palestinian Christian immigrant single mother and her teenage son in small town Indiana.

Director:

Cherien Dabis

Writer:

Cherien Dabis
9 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Nisreen Faour ... Muna Farah
Melkar Muallem Melkar Muallem ... Fadi Farah
Hiam Abbass ... Raghda Halaby
Alia Shawkat ... Salma Halaby
Yussuf Abu-Warda ... Nabeel Halaby (as Yussef Abu Warda)
Joseph Ziegler ... Mr. Novatski
Amer Hlehel Amer Hlehel ... Samer
Selena Haddad Selena Haddad ... Lamis Halaby
Jenna Kawar Jenna Kawar ... Rana Halaby
Suheila Muallem Suheila Muallem ... Jamileh
Brodie Sanderson Brodie Sanderson ... Matt
Andrew Sannie Andrew Sannie ... James
Daniel Boiteau Daniel Boiteau ... Mike
Jeff Button Jeff Button ... Jason (as Jeff Sutton)
Miriam Smith ... Bank Employee
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Storyline

Muna, a single mother in Ramallah, has applied for a visa to the US. When it comes, her son Fadi, an excellent student, convinces her they should go. After an incident at customs begins their exile badly, they join Muna's sister and family in Illinois. Muna needs a job: although she has two degrees and 15 years' experience in banking, she settles for work at White Castle, telling the family her job's at a nearby bank. It's spring, 2003, and the US invades Iraq. While friends come from unlikely places, Fadi meets prejudice at school. How he'll respond to it and to American youth culture and how Muna will sort things out with her family are the rest of the story. Tragedy or hope? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Life's best adventures are journeys of the heart. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for brief drug use involving teens, and some language | See all certifications »
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Details

Language:

English | Arabic | French

Release Date:

17 June 2009 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Amerrika See more »

Filming Locations:

Chicago, Illinois, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$58,823, 6 September 2009

Gross USA:

$627,436

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$2,176,304
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Feature film directing debut of Cherien Dabis. See more »

Goofs

Interviews and luggage searches are performed by people with "Airport Security" patches on their uniforms. These jobs would be performed by Customs officers and Immigration officers. See more »

Soundtracks

Te Rompo
Written by Jose Francisco Gutierrez Ramirez, Raulin Encarnacion
Performed by Max One
Published by Astonishing Music (BMI)/Murder Riddims Publishing (BMI)
Courtesy of Crucial Music Corporation
See more »

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User Reviews

 
An overly simplistic approach
9 November 2009 | by howard.schumannSee all my reviews

Amreeka (the Arabic word for America) is a humorous and warm-hearted first feature from Cherien Dabis that follows a Palestinian woman, Muna (Nisreen Faour) and her sixteen-year-old son, Fadi (Melkar Muallem) from the checkpoints of the West Bank to the checkmates of racial animosity in a small town in Illinois near Chicago. Set in 2003 at the start of the Iraq War, Muna leaves Bethlehem because she desires a better life for her son and can no longer put up with overbearing Israeli police, the harangues of her elderly mother, and reminders of her philandering ex-husband. The opening sequence in which Muna is ecstatic about receiving her Green Card in the mail and says tearful goodbyes to her family on her way to America joyously captures the closeness of family and their caring for each other in a lighthearted manner.

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.


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