Sadly this is one of the forgotten gems of the movie year, mainly because they do not want to know anything about the war in Iraq.
Any of us not in the U.S. during the aftermath of 9/11 and the beginning war kind of looked on with a sense doom for both sides. Reports of people in the states thought to be Iraqi being attacked crept over airwaves making us sick with dread. This didn’t stop in the U.S., it spread everywhere, the U.K. was just as bad, but is was the U.S. who the eyes of the world were on.
‘Amreeka’ shows how it was for people, not even from Iraq, living in America at the time. It was hard, and probably is still pretty bad. The film does not go into horrors that may have occurred, but rather in the smaller, spirit crushing manner (bullies, being turned away from jobs, looks in the supermarket, hate mail).
However this is a surprisingly upbeat approach to such a dark matter. Muna (a miraculous Nisreen Faour) moves to middle America with her son. They will live with her cousin Raghda (the brilliant Hiam Abbass) who is married to a successful doctor and she will get work in a bank like she did in Palestine, and her son will go to school to be a doctor or lawyer.
Of course things do not go as planned, and set back after set back, mainly due to ignorance and prejudice threat to diminish Munas’ dreams.
However due to assured direction and an unsentimental screenplay by Cherien Dabis, the film does not fall into schlocky trappings. This is also mainly due to Faour who is strikingly beautiful as well as a very gifted comedic and dramatic actress. She will do what she can to survive in this strange new world, and she will do it with a smile on her face. Equally as strong is Abbass. Raghda misses her home, and does not give herself to the American way. Constantly suspicious of the world around her she pushes back what is happening to her home and lives in an ideal vision of it, which is much better than her present. Abbass makes this woman so heart breakingly real that you are thankful you never have to see her visit her home, to see what it has become.
‘Amreeka’ does have a few pacing and plot issues, but they are made up for by two strong female performances and some solid supporting players.
Grade - B+