Amreeka chronicles the adventures of Muna, a single mother who leaves the West Bank with Fadi, her teenage son, with dreams of an exciting future in the promised land of small town Illinois.
Amid the daily humiliations of West Bank checkpoints, her boring job in a bank and her nagging mother, Muna Farah (Nisreen Faour) struggles to get as much happiness as she can from life. Her greatest joy is her son Fadi (Melkar Muallen), for whom she stretches her modest salary to keep in private school. Still, when Muna finds out she’s received a U.S. Green Card, she’s torn between doing what’s best for Fadi’s future and saying goodbye to her family and everything she knows. But after Fadi has one too many tense altercations with an Israeli soldier, the perils of remaining home become all too clear, and she makes up her mind to emigrate. Muna and Fadi arrive in the U.S. at the onset of the Iraq War, an unwelcoming time and place to be from the Middle East. As suspicious customs agents rifle through their suitcases, Muna’s life’s savings is confiscated. Moving in with her sister Raghda (Hiam Abbass), Raghda’s doctor husband Nabeel Halaby (Yussef Abu-Warda) and their three young daughters in a rural Illinois town, she soon realizes she’s penniless and that her 10 years of experience as a banker and her two degrees don’t count for much. Muna learns that Raghda and Nabeel have money troubles of their own. Desperate to help, Muna swallows her pride and secretly takes a job at the local White Castle. Meanwhile, Fadi is ostracized and teased at school. Anxious to fit in, he leans on his rebellious cousin, Salma, (Alia Shawkat) and her boyfriend. Soon he is getting into trouble and becoming increasingly estranged from his mother. When Fadi gets into a fight with one of his tormentors at school, Muna goes to see the principal (Joseph Ziegler) in search of answers, but instead finds the comfort of an unexpected friend. Eventually Muna’s secret is revealed, and Muna and Fadi’s worlds collide. The time has come for Muna to teach Fadi a vital lesson about who he is—a lesson that heals and binds them both. Told with heartfelt humor by award-winning writer-director Cherien Dabis in her feature film debut, Amreeka is a universal journey into the lives of a family of immigrants and first-generation teenagers caught between their heritage and the new world in which they now live and the bittersweet search for a place to call home.