'Amreeka' brings Arab voice to America

LOS ANGELES "Amreeka" tells the story of a single mother and her teenage son who leave the west bank for a small town in Illinois, joining other family members who've already made the journey to America.

The film takes place during the first Gulf War.

Director /*Cherien Dabis*/ says "Amreeka" is inspired by her own family, who actually lived through some of what you see on screen.

She left the more absurd moments out.

"The secret service came to my high school to investigate a rumor that my 17-year-old sister threatened to kill the president," said Dabis. "So I think that would have been hard for people to believe, even though it actually happened."

As a teenager, Cherien says she experienced discrimination during the time of the gulf war because of her heritage.

It is also a theme dealt with by the characters in her movie.

"I was definitely concerned with wanting to really make an authentic portrait of an Arab American family," said Dabis. "Because I felt like there was no representation, no authentic representation of Arabs in films and in the media in general."

"Amreeka" is serious, sad, sweet and funny. And the woman behind it is very happy that her film had an impact on the North American crew who traveled with her to shoot it.

"The journey of seeing how afraid some of them were to go there- and then having them be there and seeing them falling in love with it, and seeing them interacting with the Palestinians and seeing all of their own preconceived notions of the west bank shattered. It was just so satisfying. It was amazing," said Dabis.

"Amreeka" makes its debut on Friday, September 4. The film is rated PG-13.

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