Another heartbreaking drama about Arabs and their mistreatment in the United States. Palestinians Muna (Nisreen Faour) and teen son Fadi (Melkar Muallem) leave the Israeli-occupied West Bank for Illinois after 9/11, thanks to a green-card lottery. So we watch in guilt as overqualified Muna travels from bank to bank looking for a job, but is turned away by receptionists who don't even try to hide their horrified "She could be a terrorist!" faces. She ends up having to take a job at White Castle. Ashamed, Muna lets her whole family believe she works at a bank, rather than admit the truth. Amreeka continues its predictable route as Fadi is beaten up at school, taunted for his name ("Fatty!"), and has foreseeable graffiti written on his car ("Go home, Saddam"). Muna suffers equally embarrassing tribulations: coworkers mocking her accent, even threats of physical violence. Though sadly realistic, these humiliations and identity themes are well familiar eight years after 9/11. The strongest element here is Fadi's attempt to deal with the twofold hardship of embracing his heritage and struggling for acceptance as a first-generation immigrant teen.
Faour (left) gets American advice from her cousin (Hiam Abbass).
Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., Sept. 25. Rated PG-13. 97 minutes.Read our SIFF interview with writer/director Cherien Dabis.