Amreeka is the Arabic word for America. The story plays in 2003, about the time when the US invaded Iraq. It starts out in Palestine, and we get to know Muna, a divorcee who wants to make a better life for her son Fadi, a smart 16 year old boy. He gets accepted to study in America, and they travel from the Palestinian Territories to rural Illinois – in the winter. Things don’t go quite right. The xenophobic American populace, which often cannot point out America on a world map, let alone Iraq or Palestine, stereotype Arabs as suicide bombers. High school cruelty goes awry.
For an hour and a half I enjoyed looking at America from the eyes of the immigrant. What is it like to land at O’Hare coming from a far away land with limited language skills and no understanding of the culture? I have many times picked up people at the airport in LAX and watched the masses walk into America, from Thailand, Poland, South Africa, India, Russia and hundreds of other places. They look so foreign. Watch Amreeka, and you will see what America looks like from their vantage point.
Most of the dialog is in Arabic to do justice to how immigrants would speak amongst themselves. Subtitles help greatly, of course. The Arabic that we gullible Americans now associate solely with terrorism sounded beautiful to me and I found myself thinking I’d like to study Arabic for a while, just to see what it’s like.
Culture clashes make for good stories and good movies, almost every time. Movies about culture clashes take us out of our cosy gross-national-product-land and make us think for an hour and a half.
Amreeka helps take down prejudices. Not all Muslims are evil. Not all Arabs are Muslims. Not all Palestinians are suicide bombers. No, they have bills to pay, jobs to find, divorce to deal with and moms to wake them up with silly phone calls. They are just like us.