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‘Amreeka’ One of Few Films Portraying the Real Arab

posted on: Sep 16, 2009

BY: Ameera David/Contributing Writer

After debuting at Sundance Film Festival (2009), and later receiving the highly commendable critics’ prize at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, it became clear ‘Amreeka’ would be a success.

Since then, hundreds of people have written glowing reviews about the film, and thousands more have filled up the nation’s theatres with great fervor.

Never before has the public taken such interest in the Arab immigrant experience.

‘Amreeka’, directed by Arab American, Cherien Dabis, follows Palestinian Muna Farah (Nisreen Faour) and her 16 year-old son, Fadi (Melkar Muallem) as they immigrate to America in hopes of creating a better life.

After they settle with family in small Illinois town, the film highlights each family member and the challenges they encounter living as Arabs in America during the first Gulf war.

While ‘Amreeka’ presents an accurate and very real account of Arab Americans, it stands amongst very few films that can claim the same. Instead of characterizing an Arab that exudes so many basic human qualities, most films showcase the vilified Arab immigrant with a terrorist agenda.

According to the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (ADC), such slanderous depictions have been on the rise in the years following September 11th.

Since its foundation in 1980, ADC has assumed a very proactive role in dispelling misconceptions that exist within major TV sitcoms and films. In the past, ADC has effectively worked alongside production companies for major motion pictures such as Syriana (2005) and Traitor (2008).

Kareem Shora, National Executive Director of ADC, says “In these cases, the production companies welcomed our help, so we worked to show them how they were over sensationalizing historical inaccuracies.”

While much work is being done, these perpetuated stereotypes are habitually contaminating American TV and cinema— giving Americans more opportunities to distinguish themselves from Arabs, rather than draw similarities.

In fact, currently under major scrutiny by ADC and the larger Arab American community are primetime shows Entourage and 24 for their highly defamatory scenes.

Shora says “We are certainly in need of more real life, neutral characters that accurately describe the Arab American experience.”

It is for that reason, Cherien Dabis felt called into action. And it seems she is calling on fellow Arab Americans as well.

She says, “If we don’t tell our story, who will? We can tell it the best, and with all the damaging misinformation floating around out there, it’s our responsibility as Arab Americans to work on reversing those inaccuracies.”

While it remains to be seen whether films of its caliber will follow, ‘Amreeka’ has certainly broken a cultural seal and will hopefully begin to shape a new, more positive construction of the Arab persona.

‘Amreeka’ will be released on Friday, September 18th at the Landmark Maple Art 3 theatre in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Check for show times.