Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Amreeka

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The American Dream stretches far beyond its country’s borders. And yet in looking to trade in the Israeli wall for an Illinois white-picket fence, Palestinian Muna (Nisreen Faour) and her teenage son, Fadi (Melkar Muallem) find the dream elusive in 2003 Iraq war America. Writer/director Cherien Dabis’ debut feature Amreeka illuminates the modern immigrant experience to heart warming, pointed effect. Born of Palestinian/Jordanian immigrant parents, Dabis seems keen to tackle the presumptions and pretensions attendant to the migrant experience; not only the rampant racism of Americans towards Arabs, but also the romantic assumptions held of ‘home’ by the Palestinian diaspora.

However what sounds like a potential diatribe is actually a lovely, funny film. Carried by Faour’s infectiously enthusiastic performance, whatever ‘messages’ Amreeka seeks to communicate are well couched in authentically written characters. Muna’s rocky American assimilation is balanced by her sister’s (Hiam Abbass) mortgage woes, now patients are abstaining from her husband’s (Yussef Abu-Warda) medical practice. While the teenage experience also features, with Fadi’s plight plotted alongside his cousin’s (Alia Shawkat) rebellion. Only the kindly, Polish-Jew headmaster (Joseph Ziegler) rings a bit false, though it does lead to an edifying discussion about chess.

With advanced screenings this week, which marks the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, perhaps Armeeka will hold a special significance. In capturing the wall that envelops the West Bank, Dabis’ vérité-style camera includes a shot of graffiti reading Ich bin ein Berliner...if only JFK’s famously inaccurate pledge of solidarity still translated for those coming to Amreeka.


Published on Concrete Playground (visit the site to win tickets to advanced screenings this weekend)
Australian release date: 19 November 2009



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