Interview with Cherien Dabis,
Director and writer of the striking award winning movie:
by Hassane Haizoune
The film got many awards and was applauded universally. Was projected in Cannes in two festivals. Released by National Geographic Entertainment in 2009The film in a lot of people's opinion is very pathetic and it rises the question Arab/Israel conflict in such a unique artistic and skillful way, spotting points of togetherness between the people of this planet in an altruistic, humanitarian philanthropic sphere. It goes beyond the traditional description of the sufferances of Palestinians in the occupied territories further to the distress of those lucky ones who managed to find a refuge in the United States. It is a story of a divorced mother of a lonely child who persuaded her to leave her job and sick mother to seek refuge in the United States in search of a better life. The movie, was received with both contentedness as well as disapprobation although the heroin was a non religious character. The story is not a story of American prejudice, it is a story of real life in America. The film got an amazing success worldwide and was reviewed in 64 magazines and newspapers in the States only, including Chicago Sun-Times, USA Today and New York Times. the film made its first premiere in a dramatic competition at the 2009 Sundance Film festival. Film Awards: Winner Fipresci prize at Cannes Festival 2009, Official Selection director's fortnight, Cannes film festival, New Directors/new films. Official Selection Dramatic competition Sndance. The film was produced by Christina Piovesan and Paul Barkin.
The director, Cherien DAbis who also wrote the script was born in Omaha, Nebraska, USA in 1976. About her identity, Cherien explains that she is not American enough for the Americans and not Arab enough for the Arabs. Of a Palestinian father and a jordanian mother, she grew up in rural ohio and Jordan. the film reflects so much about her family experience and everyday life in the States. Many of the events of the film were inspired by reality and her family experience in the US.
The director really appreciated my comment/question: can the film be regarded as a historical documentary rather than a fiction story?
Cherien Dabis was present during the projection of her movie at Rif Cinema in Tangier, Morocco. She made such great efforts to respond to all kinds of questions and clarified every issue regarding her movie. Hassane Haizoune made a quick interview with the director and got the following responses.
Hassane Haizoune: What would you like to tell the Moroccans while projecting your movie Amreeka in Morocco? And also What was your first objective making the movie in the first place?
Cherien Dabis: I think I just wanted to share the film with Moroccans. And I hope they will be able to identify with it and really appreciate it for the way in which the movie brings people together and in the way it celebrates Arab identity, culture, ,family love. I got into trouble a lot with the film all over the world specifically in the Arab world. It's surprising, and is really joyful for people to see a real Arab story on the big screen, An Arab family, you know, So I hope Moroccan can identify with the film. They can see themselves in the film. And they can understand a bit what experience is like for friends and relatives whom they may know have emigrated, lived abroad, whether to France, or to the United States, that many ways are experience for emigrants is the same no matter where you are, no matter where you are from, no matter where you go. That in many ways the experience of being a new emigrant in a new land is very very similar. So I think that being able to identify yourself in the film is one of the reasons why I made it and one of the reasons why I am here and I hope people here will get to view.
Hassane Haizoune: Through your movie you want to send many massages, messages to the whole world, one of the explicit ones is for instance is wrapped in the humorous demand starting with : tell the president of the United States…… a lot of messages in your movie, a lot messages….. Would you like to select some of the most important ones for you?
Cherien Dabis: I think it is different for everyone, everyone takes away something different from the film, so I don't want to put any particular message out there. For me , the story is very much about a woman who has to learn to stand up for herself and has to claim a sense of home. Because it's not going to be given to her. And so I think that's one of the, you know, when I see the film, that's what I identify with. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to make it. Because it's someone who has grown up in the diaspora homeless bin something that is constantly evolving this idea of home and what is it. So and in a way, I would like people to walk out of the theater having a conversation about that, maybe thinking a little about what is it like to be for people who are outsider in t heir own communities, or if they are outsiders themselves in sort of appreciating the fact that they are not alone, that in a way, we all have this sense, we all feel there is one point or another in our lives. So those are a few of the things that I think. I would like to say within this film that I hope I have successfully , you know in a way kind of communicated in the film so I think that everyone sees and takes away something different, so I appreciate that also hearing other people's points of view. What they get when they watch the film.
Hassane Haizoune: So this is your first movie, right?
Cherien Dabis: yes, it is my first one.
Hassane Haizoune: After the success of your first movie, Do you consider making a second one?
The second feature movie in a way is a sister movie to Amreeka. This time it is about the experience of an Arab American who goes to Jordan, to plan her summer wedding. So it's a sort of the opposite experience of being an American in the Arab world. it's similar to the way I grew up ,and that I was , you know. In the US, I was the Arab, and in the middle East, I was the American, so it was this sort of dual identity,and taking the look at you know the flip side of that.
Hassane Haizoune: It is outstanding how you made this dual identity emerge majestically in your successful movie Amreeka.
We thank you so much for sharing your movie with us here in Morocco. And I must admit that I have enjoyed every single bit of the movie Amreeka. A very successful movie not only in my point of view but in that of thousands if not millions before me. I am, just like my fellow Moroccans, really impressed!
Cherien Dabis: thank you. (in Arabic)