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?
“Coming to America” immigrant tales usually end up as crime epics or social realist tragedies (or Eddie Murphy comedies) but this one strikes a defiantly upbeat tone without oversweetening the pill. Arriving from Ramallah at the outset of the Iraq war, this Palestinian mother and son don’t exactly find a land of opportunity. Mother seeks a bank job but can only find one flipping burgers; son struggles to fit in at school, but gets wardrobe advice from his cousin (Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat). Both come up against unfathomable cultural barriers and some slightly exaggerated anti-Arab xenophobia, added to which their presence sparks microcosmic territorial disputes with their American relatives. The political issues are a little heavy handed but the story – partly drawn from the director’s own experience – works best when it focuses on the personal. The Guardian
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. While the arrivals in the other two movies were not legal immigrants, the indomitably good-natured protagonist of “Amreeka,” Muna Farah (Nisgreen Faour), is a divorced non-Muslim Palestinian woman with a green card. The New York Times
Directed by Cherian Dabis