Amreeka Cherien Dabis

Amreeka Cherien Dabis
If nothing else, Amreeka is proof that even a film mired in clichés and filmed with borderline incompetence on the technical front can be charming and affable if made with sincerity and heart, something that at least six of this year's Best Picture nominees can't claim. Here, we have yet another entry into the immigrant displacement canon, begging the obvious question of necessity, but here's the difference, and appeal, with this entry from L Word writer Cherien Dabis: it's not preachy, overbearing or pompous. A big plus in a film market inundated with humourless liberal smugness. Context is provided, framing the move from the West Bank to America, with Muna (an impressive Nisreen Faour) struggling with Israeli harassment and the likely grim future for her son Fadi (a substantially less impressive Melkar Muallam), forging Westward with her eye on opportunity and the myth of the self-made (wo)man. Moving in with her sister (played by Hiam Abbass), the optimistic Muna learns quickly of white America's brown-skinned anxieties, receiving furtive glances in grocery store line-ups and being unable to land employment as a banker, something she has over a decade of experience doing. Rather than dwelling on these negatives, Dabis balances things by tossing in examples of human kindness and a blossoming relationship with the local high school principal. Even Fadi's storyline, which outlines adolescent racism in an overly clunky, cartoonish fashion, keeps things in check by acknowledging his friendships and eventual forward momentum. More importantly, this message is served with a lightness of spirit and sense of humour, adding levity where usually there's awkward sternness. The DVD includes a series of interviews with cast and crew members where we learn how personal this film was for most involved, along with a snippet from The Fabulous Picture Show, a crappy cable interview show where Dabis and Quentin Tarantino are featured, because Inglourious Basterds and Amreeka have so much in common. (E1)