Director Cherien Dabis’s auspicious debut feature, Amreeka, is a warm and lighthearted film about one Palestinian family’s tumultuous journey into Diaspora amidst the cultural fallout of America’s war in Iraq.
Muna Farah, a Palestinian single mom, struggles to maintain her optimistic spirit in the daily grind of intimidating West Bank checkpoints, the constant nagging of a controlling mother, and the haunting shadows of a failed marriage. Everything changes one day when she receives a letter informing her that her family has been granted a U.S. green card. Reluctant to leave her homeland, but realizing it may be the only way to secure a future for Fadi, her teenage son, Muna decides to quit her job at the bank and visit her relatives in Illinois to see about a new life in a land that gives newcomers a run for their money.
Dabis weaves an abundance of humor and levity into this tale of struggle, displacement, and nostalgia and draws an absorbing and irresistibly charming performance from actress Nisreen Faour as Muna, who stands at the heart of this tale. Amreeka glows with the truth and magic of everyday life and signals the arrival of an exciting, new directorial talent.
Raised in Nebraska by a Jordanian mother and Palestinian father, Dabis drew from her personal experience when writing Amreeka--a prescient look at the experiences of Arab-Americans, the racism they encounter, and the quotidian struggles they face. Cherien Dabis went on to make a second feature film, May in the Summer, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013, and to direct episodes of Empire and Quantico.
“Cherien Dabis’s Amreeka (the Arabic word for America) stands alongside The Visitor and Maria Full of Grace as one of the most accomplished recent films about a non-European immigrant coming to the United States.”
—Stephen Holden, The New York Times, 2009