On Monday, April 18, 2011 the Ethnic Studies Program hosted a film showing of the film Amreeka. Amreeka is the story of an immigrant family’s journey to the US and their introduction to American culture. It also a continuation of their lesson in raw prejudice. Amreeka first deals with problems that many immigrants to US struggle with upon coming to America. Firstly, the audience sees the family, a mother and son, Muna and Fadi dealing with immigrating to America in a post-9/11 world. It is most important to understand that because living in and trying to get into a post 9/11 America is very difficult for most Americans and people of other countries, particularly those who were from the Middle East, were of the Muslim faith or were of Middle Eastern descent. However, the scene where they and their goods are being examined should be regarded with caution. It is easy to say that they are being questioned and searched because they are not only foreigners but also Middle Eastern. However, the counterargument to that is that they being searched because they are foreigners entering the US and that their particular race and presumed religious ideologies have nothing to do with their examination. In fact, as we later learn, the family is actually Christian. Not Muslim. In the beginning of the film, when the mother and son are finally settled into the home of their family, they must immediately deal with money problems. Unbeknownst to him, Fadi allowed the airport security to take away a tin of cookies containing $2,500 dollars, all the money his mother had. Fortunately, her brother, had given Fadi $200 dollars, so they at least had some money with them. Also, Fadi and Muna deal with American culture. Another family member takes stock of Fadi’s clothes and notes that he wears particular clothing, he will be considered “F.O.B.” or “Fresh Off the Boat”, meaning it will become immediately obvious that he is an immigrant because of his older attire. Quickly, Muna and Fadi attempt to ameliorate their attire. Also, Muna experiences feelings of discomfort with her body type. Fadi deals with being a new school and the education system of the US. Also, Fadi is bullied by members of his class, who are not accepting of him because of his Middle Eastern heritage. Also, it is noted that these boys have family members in the military who are in Iraq. During the setting of this movie, the U.S. invasion of Iraq has just begun. The family also deals with discrimination in finding jobs because Muna’s ethnicity, even though she is not Muslim. She is well educated with 10 years of work experience in a bank but she is forced to take a job at a White Castle restaurant. This is a point of humiliation for her, being both a proud immigrant and an educated woman. Also, Muna and Fadi deal with language barriers as they navigate American culture. Colloquialisms are difficult for them to understand. Also, Fadi tries smoking “Mary Jane” and gets into a fight with a classmate over causing his mother’s slip and fall at work and is later arrested, briefly detained and unrealistically released after some bargaining with a Jewish principal who befriends them despite the “serious allegations” against him. Muna also gets suckered into trying raise money for herself with one of America’s many weight loss scam products, “HerbalLose”. Not only is Muna dealing with being an immigrant, she is also dealing with being a divorcee. At the end of the novel, it is clear that Muna and the Jewish principal may have chemistry between the two of them. As Muna notes “We are a minority there (Christians) and a minority here (Middle Easterners).”
This movie is far from being the best movie to handle such an intense and thick debate but it works because it’s easy to follow and sends to message to audience. It does however reinforce and create new stereotypes as it crushes others. For instance, the whites in the film are racist. Members of the military (or at least their family members) have problems with Muslims, Middle Easterners and others not like them and they are so ignorant they cannot even spell names of terrorist organizations correctly. Also, the black boy who is in a relationship with Fadi’s outspoken female cousin, dresses in “ghetto” or “gangsta” clothing, smokes weed, listens to rap, and skips school and seems generally disinterested in school. This movie also has a nice, clean and “happy” ending with a Jewish man and a Middle Eastern family coming together and having dinner together. While not entirely unrealistic, it was certainly corny. The same is true with the husband’s medical practice failing because of uncomfortable patients changing to practices without Middle Eastern doctors. Also, Muna decides that she does not need to diet and is happy with her body. Again, while not unrealistic, that conclusion is much to neat and sudden for film, where even the pre-America scenes showed Muna unhappy with her body type and yet suddenly, in the last minutes of the film she expresses a love of her body.