Amreeka Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 29, 2012
By the end, the messaging gets so heavy-handed that the movie loses some credibility with its intended audience. But if you're an American, you know there is truth to all of it, and this film provides an opportunity to put yourself in a Palestinian's shoes and feel a bit of their experience.
Super Reviewer
½ April 7, 2012
A stealth political piece about a Palestinian family's rough immigration to heartland America, effectively put across by a lovable cast. Here is a writer/director to watch.
Super Reviewer
October 29, 2011
I was kind of "meh" with this one. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I guess from the cover I expected more of a comedy.. and it is kind of funny.... but not too as it deals with a serious topic. It probably works better in the more serious parts, but I felt like I didn't really connect too well with any of it. The cast are good and you do hope to see them do well, but by the end of the film I was glad to see it finish too. Not really sure what the problem was exactly. And the pipe smoking really put me off at the end as well as it seemed irresponsible with all the kids at the table (just a little pet hate of mine!). Don't know... maybe worth a watch on tv for free, but not one to seek out.
Super Reviewer
October 28, 2011
In Amreeka, we have an Indie film that explores the well trod ground and fish out of water scenario of someone from a foreign land moving to America. In this case the script has some merit as it shows a Palestinian mother and son who put up with the daily travails of getting from the west bank into Jerusalem where they reside with grandma.

When the opportunity arises to journey to Illinois, the son, a gifted private school student, jumps at the chance, and while his mother is a bit more reticent, having a well paying job, finally acquiesces after an incident occurs involving her son and a border agent.

Of course once they get to Illinois, where mom's sister is living with a successful doctor, reality sets in, and we find, as usual, that things can never live up to our expectations. Adding tension to the mix is the post 911 fallout, where anyone looking "Arab" is shunned.

There is a certain empathy to be seen here, though I've seen this type of film before and seen it better (The Kite Runner for example). The filming is very straight forward, and shot with whatever light was available (which gives much of the film a very "home movie" feel to it). The narrative is linear, and on the whole gives you an "ordinary day in the life" attitude, although at times you feel led on a leash as the narrative tries to shoehorn the message and events become just a bit too convenient.

The performance of Nisreen Faour as the mother is a good one, as she maintains a certain inner strength that comes through the lens well. Her son, played by Melkar Muallem is also well played, and in all, in spite of some obvious Indie conventions and the fact that the film is really showing us nothing groundbreaking, does manage to mildly entertain through its less than 100 minute run time, although I cringed at the obvious male attraction, savior to the rescue aspect of the school principal - even while applauding his acceptance, not only for her race, but her, shall we say, overly abundant figure.
Super Reviewer
August 9, 2011
"Is it true you work at White Castle, Auntie?"
"You could have at least chosen Wendy's."
A Palestinian single mother journeys to Illinois with her teenage son, and they encounter anti-Arab racism and financial difficulties.
In many of my reviews, I stay focused on story construction, but Amreeka made me remember that in films we spend two hours getting to know a group of people. Many of the people here, especially Mouna, played by Nisreen Faour, are simply delightful human beings with whom I'm very happy spending time. Even the surly and displaced Raghda, Mouna's sister, has her moments, and it's easy to understand the roots of her anger.
Also, I, along with many others, can write until our fingers turn purple about the plights of the Palestinian people, but Amreeka shows how getting across town, all the while being treated with suspicion, becomes so oppressive and dehumanizing that one is compelled to merely stay at home if one is lucky enough to have one, or in this case, flee.
The film's weakness is its story construction. The film examines many issues - among them, anti-Arab racism, anti-Muslim xenophobia, teenage rebellion, classism, body image issues, etc. - and I don't expect each of these to be wrapped up in a pretty bow, but what the film offers seems blissfully ignorant after it dealt with complexity so deftly just a few moments before.
Overall, Amreeka has some remarkably likable characters, people whom I'd love to introduce you to; we'll spend the day eating falafel burgers at White Castle.
Super Reviewer
October 14, 2010
Good movie. It's a very interesting look at what Arabian families had to deal with here after 9/11. It couldn't have been easy for them with all the hatred for Muslims back then. Muslim or not, they all were looked at as the same...people we didn't want here. Nicely done story
Super Reviewer
November 24, 2009
This movie is certainly entertaining to watch, and rather flawlessly deals with a rather touchy subject. However, it really left me cold. I really cannot force myself to care about what happens to Muna and Fadi. Besides, it certainly appears that they live happily ever after. The End. Idk, it seemed pretty light and humorous. That was a unique touch. Realyl, think about everything you have ever seen, read, or heard about Iranian immigration. it generally isn't that cheerful. Granted, the movie shows some hardships, but overall it seems pretty optimistic and sweet. I thought that was really a nice touch, but it is not enough to save the film. It not even so much that Amreeka is a bad movie. There are just not enough aspects worthy of praise to really call it a good movie. Still, it is light entertainment with quite a lot of heart. That has got to count for something.
Super Reviewer
December 14, 2010
In "Amreeka," Muna(Nisreen Faour), a divorced bank employee in the West Bank, learns her long forgotten American visa application has been approved. At first, reluctant to follow through and leave her family behind, she changes her mind in order to give her teenaged son Fadi(Melkar Muallem) a better chance at life and a college in the States. They have the bad luck to arrive to stay with Muna's sister Raghda(Hiam Abbass) in Illinois just as the American invasion of Iraq is kicking into high gear in 2003. That adversely affects the medical practice of Nadeel(Yussuf Abu-Warda), Raghda's husband. So, Muna and Fadi could have definitely used the $2500 they lost at customs...

With a couple of contrivances and little story to speak of, "Amreeka" still manages to be an engaging movie that nails the immigrant experience by depicting it as adjusting to a new country while resisting the pulls of the old country. While immigrants may therefore feel like they do not have a country to call their own, the same could certainly also be said of residents of the West Bank.(I hate the wall but I love the graffiti.) And without condescension, the movie also captures the best and worst that small town life has to offer.
Super Reviewer
½ June 4, 2014
A middling film about the trials and tribulations of a Palestinian family and their new home in America. When things are bad, they are truly bad and when they are good, things are perfect. Unfortunately that loses reality in a film.
Super Reviewer
½ September 20, 2009
Dabis is lucky to have such a wonderful cast on the debut film as director But this story about post 9/11 xenophobic America feels patchy at times and does not avoid the trap of introducing Hollywood-esque feel-good moments in an otherwise strong drama.
Super Reviewer
½ September 20, 2009
[29th Atlantic Film Festival]

An immigrant's story of a Palestinian single mom and her teenage son arrive in rural Illinois to escape a life of oppression, only to face the fallout from America's war on Iraq.

Wow, as heavy as the synopsis sounds, this is one of the most uplifting movies I've seen all year. Mona and her family all face hardships adjusting to life and prejudice in America, from schoolyard bullying to prejudicial patients. Through all the negatives, they manage to pull through and persevere as a family.

Walking into Amreeka, it sounded like a movie I'd seen plenty of times. What makes it succeed is Nisreen Faour in the starring role as Mona - she's bursting with so much energy, innocence, and sincerity that it is impossible not to like her. Highly recommended and a lot of fun to watch
Super Reviewer
November 7, 2009
Interesting movie. Great story plot that centralizes around the lives and experiences of a mother and her son. It is right before the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, and those who are middle eastern, and/or of Muslim faith are being discriminated. Tired of the daily exhaustive routine in traveling from home to work and back again, Mouna (still feeling the betrayal of her husband's departure) decides to listen to her son: travel to the U.S. to make a better way of life. Uncertain, but she agrees and puts her mother in the care of her brother. In the U.S., Mouna and Fadi stays with Raghda (Mouna's sister) and her family. In his new school, Fadi is abruptly introduced to the blind ignorance and wayward opinions of some of his fellow classmates. He depends upon his cousin sister Salma to defend him which she does in her own peculiar ways. Mouna seeing the tension of those in the community and that of her sister, she is set on finding employment but cannot find work so she takes a position at a White Castle location. It is there that she makes a new friend, Matt. Adjusting to this new life, Mouna befriends Mr. Novatski and helps to bridge and alleviate the tension in her sister's home.
Great cast- Nisreen Faour, Hiam Abbass, Melkar Muallem, Joseph Ziegler, Yussuf Abu-Warda, and Alia Shawkat. Worth seeing!
Super Reviewer
½ January 21, 2010
Amreeka was the story of a Palestinian woman as she struggled living in an military-occupied West Bank In Palestina. When she received notice that she has been chosen in a lottery for a U.S. Green Card, she made a decision to go, leaving her mother and brother behind. Once in the US, she realized that life in America was not all that she had dreamed of. Facing prejudice everywhere, she had to make choices in trying to support her family and her son she brought to America with her. In the end, this movie showed us the importance of family and the sacrifices made for the one we love.
½ April 19, 2011
I do love a good immigrant story and this is definitely one of them. Your heart just aches for Muna and Fadi, so full of high hopes, only to come up against reality. Very affecting, very real, and timeless.
Super Reviewer
½ September 10, 2010
I worked with an Iranian physician back around 2001. He had such a joy in learning all things American and we would delight in showing him our customs. Then the WTC bombing happened and I watched as my friend became a target of hate-filled and fearful people. So I totally identified with the Palestianian family that came here and then suffered due to an ignorant teenage boy.
½ June 2, 2010
Thoughtful story of Palestinian immigrants to the USA. More than most films about the immigrant experience, this one makes the American-born citizen realize and sympathize with the very minute details of basic, everyday life that we take for granted, but can be quite a challenge for immigrants.

+ genuine, heartfelt delivery of lines by all cast members; highly believable characters and acting
+ film deals with a serious topic, but is lighthearted enough to be uplifting
+ excellent character development; screenwriting and directing easily makes audience compassionate toward protagonist

- overplays stereotypes
- exaggerates discrimination to the point of unbelievability
- abrupt ending--I would've loved to see more!
½ March 26, 2010
Use of stereotypes undermine heart-felt Palestinian immigrant saga

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Muna Farah lives with her teenage son, Fadi, in Bethlehem on the West Bank. Muna is still sad about being dumped by her husband who left her for a younger, more attractive woman but has managed to stay afloat working at a local bank for the past ten years. When Muna receives notification that her green card application has been approved, she and Fadi pack their bags and move to a suburban town in Illinois where her sister Raghda and her physician husband Nabeel, live.

Before moving in with her sister and brother-in-law (along with their two children), there's a contrived scene where Muna loses all the family savings ($2500) at the airport after customs agents confiscate a tin box of cookies. It seems that Muna had placed the money in the box and wasn't paying attention when the cookies were confiscated (you would think that of all the items they were asked to take out of their bags, the box that contained the money would have been subject to the greatest scrutiny on Muna's part). We learn later that Fadi "tried" to tell his mother that the custom agents had taken the cookies, but for some reason, she "wasn't listening".

Amreeka takes place just at the time the United States has invaded Iraq and anti-Arabic sentiment is high throughout the country. Raghda and Nabeel are directly affected after receiving a threatening letter in their mailbox. Meanwhile, Muna is bent on earning her keep so she tries to find a job. Despite her work experience back home, she can't find a job with a decent salary so she ends up working at White Castle. Whenever her sister drops her off for work, she enters an office building next to the White Castle, in an effort to hide the fact that the best job she was able to get was at a fast food restaurant.

Muna makes sure Fadi is enrolled in the local high school and is in the same class as his cousin, Raghda's daughter, who is an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation. Eventually, some bullies at the school begin taunting Fadi, calling him "Osama" and telling him that he should go back home.

Muna tries to earn extra money by becoming an MLM distributor of herbal products. Eventually, she qualifies for a credit card and uses it to help her brother-in-law, who's behind on his mortgage payments since he's lost numerous patients due to anti-Arab prejudice.

The second act climax occurs when some of the bullies who had been harassing Fadi, run into Muna while she's working at the White Castle. After exchanging words, one of the bullies spills a drink on the floor and when Muna chases them out, she slips on the wet floor and hurts her back. Nabeel finds her laid out on the floor of the restaurant but determines that she only has a muscle spasm and needs an anti-inflammatory. Fadi decides to take things into his own hands that night and goes to the house of the bully who taunted his mother and gets into a fight with him. Fadi is arrested and Muna sneaks out of the house to go down to the police station to try and win her son's release. She ends up calling the school principal, a Jewish man who she befriended earlier. While the charges have been dropped, the police say that they still have to hold Fadi with the implication that he's being investigated for being a possible terrorist. The police seem extremely insistent but in an implausible scene, the principal manages to convince the police (on the strength of his reputation in the community) to release the boy.

Amreeka ends on a positive note as the family has a nice meal (joined by Muna's friend, the helpful principal) at a Middle Eastern restaurant.

Amreeka is a mildly entertaining, lightweight view of new immigrants coming to America. Writer/Director Cherien Dabis populates the supporting cast with one-dimensional caricatures. The bad guys are the bigoted high school students (who we never get to know as real people). As a counterbalance, there are three characters with 'hearts of gold' who support Muna in her struggle to get ahead in the new country: the aforementioned school principal of Jewish background, the woman who works in the office next door to the White Castle who covers for Muna as she attempts to hide the true nature of her job from her family and the young purple-haired White Castle worker who befriends Muna and sticks up for her when the bullies harass her at work.

Amreeka is full of political pronouncements favoring the Palestinian cause. Nabeel correctly predicts that the Iraqi invasion by the Americans will destabilize the country but is disturbingly silent concerning the thousands murdered by Sadaam during his reign of terror. Muna indicates that she's not Muslim but is she a Palestinian Christian or simply a secular Arab? There is a passing remark that the family was subject to prejudice in the West Bank too, but that issue is never developed.

In a simplistic way, Amreeka suggests that there's both good and bad in America but the characters that are served up to illustrate that point, lack depth. While some of the interactions between Muna and the various people she befriends are interesting, the central plot device, which involves bigoted school bullies, is one big cliché.

It is refreshing to have a picture detailing one aspect of the Palestinian immigrant experience?there haven't been that many films that come to the United States which focus on the ordinary lives of Palestinian people. And the positive message embodied by Muna's talk with her son at the end of the film where she urges him to push forward in life despite obstacles is to be commended. Amreeka does hold your interest throughout but too many of its characters are rooted in caricature, failing to provide enough fully drawn portraits of real people.
March 3, 2010
Impressive performances from the entire cast, very convincingly acted. Nisreen Faour and Hiam Abbass are both excellent. It is a very moving and thought provoking story, very convincing. Excellent writing. Sensitive and a beautifully done film.
November 8, 2009
Entertaining, educating, inspiring, enlightening

The only way for us to get a realistic grip on the immigration problem is to understand better how life is as an immigrant. This movie makes an excellent contribution, by allowing us to feel through the life experiences of Muna and Fadi what it means to leave everything behind - no matter how bad it is - and try to make a new beginning in this country.

If you pay attention, you'll also notice other topics touched upon: gun-controll, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of course, coming of age, single parenthood...

I am amazed how this movie can be so entertaining and beautiful to watch, with all that depth!

Excellent Work!
October 5, 2009
It's about a Palestinian mother and her son, and their attempts to survive when they move to Illinois. The lead actress who plays Muna, the mother, is enchanting. After watching that film I had an urge to volunteer at the closest Arab American community center. It makes me crazy that young Arab kids get called "Osama" and get the "Go back to your country" crap. I know that every minority group gets that, but I feel that Middle Eastern people are the new trendy punching bags for racists.
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