Friday, September 25, 2009

The Quest for Home and "Amreeka"

On Wednesday evening, I saw "Amreeka," a debut film by director-writer Cherien Dabis about a single Palestinian mother and her teenage son emigrating to a small town in Illinois. The photo on the right is of Nasreen Faour (left) who plays Muna and Melkar Muallen who plays Fadi.

Part of the movie is set in Palestine and it was painful to watch Muna and Fadi negotiate daily military checkpoints to get to work and school. When Muna has the opportunity to move with her son to her brother's home in Illinois, she leaps at the chance.

However, adjusting to life in small town Illinois proves to be a daunting challenge. The year is 2003 and the U.S. has just invaded Iraq. Anyone of Arab descent is viewed with suspicion. Muna struggles to find a job and finally settles for work as a burger flipper at White Castle. Fadi is harassed at school and gets into fights.

My heart went out to this family caught between two worlds and searching for a true home. They neither have a home in Palestine nor yet in America.

On one level, their journey is a spiritual pilgrimage toward home. Yet, the journey is very difficult and many obstacles must be overcome. The final scene of the movie is one of hope: Muna, her son, her brother's family, and a new found American friend share a joyful dinner at an Arab restaurant.

This quest to discover one's true home is a deeply spiritual journey and one we all must take. Amreeka seems to be saying that home is not a place, but is ultimately located in relationships with those we love and trust.

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