The thriving subgenre of immigrant displacement dramedy gets a confident new spin from Cherien Dabis, a Palestinian-Jordanian raised in the United States. Divorced, demoralized, and struggling with her weight, Palestinian bank employee Muna (a very good Nisreen Faour) leaves the occupied West Bank with her teenaged son, Fadi (Melkar Muallem), to find a new home with her sister (The Visitors Hiam Abbass) in Chicago. The discovery that she has exchanged one set of checkpoints for another doesnt prevent Munaan archetypical maternal survivor straight out of Italian neorealismfrom buckling down to the business of survival in a culture whose traditional mistrust of dark-skinned foreigners is exacerbated by 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. Dabis concedes only subtitles to Western sensitivitiesthe perspective is firmly with the newcomers, whose dialogue switches on a dime from Arabic to English, signaling the constant juggling every acclimating migrant must undertake. But theres nothing bitter or cynical about Amreeka, which is directed with impish wit, an observant visual competence, and an open, conciliatory spirit (Muna befriends her sons Jewish teacher) that embraces the marginality that Arabs and Jews share in common.
Sept. 18-24, 2009