THE CITIZEN (2013)
Starring Khaled Nabawy, Agnes Bruckner, Rizwan Manji, William Atherton, Cary Elwes, Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad, Ho-Sung Pak and Rachael Adams.
Screenplay by Samir Younis and Jazmen Brown.
Directed by Sam Kadi.
Distributed by Monterey Media. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13.
The Citizen takes a look back at the most horrific events in American history. Yet far from being tragic, it reminds us why we love the wonderful melting pot of our country. This is all seen from the eyes of a Lebanese man with had the bad timing to arrive in the US on September 10, 2001.
This fatally bad timing goes on to color every aspect of Ibrahim’s American experience. (Ibrahim is played by Egyptian star Khaled Nabawy.) However, the perpetually upbeat and kind man refuses to allow the horror of that day and the recriminations which followed it to destroy his American experience.
Within a day, he grows to love America. However, things start a little rockily when his cousin, who he expected to pick him up at the airport, doesn’t show. He tells the customs agents he will check back in the next day. He finds his way to Brooklyn. He makes his first friend — a beautiful American named Diane (Agnes Bruckner) who he saves from her abusive boyfriend when they are staying at the same Brooklyn hotel. Diane takes him on a tour of Manhattan, showing him the sights and sounds of the city.
And the next day, everything changed.
In the shadows of World Trade Center calamity, Ibrahim was held for months on suspicion that he may have been involved. When he finally gets out, jobs are nearly impossible to find. People are distrustful of him because of his ethnicity. However Ibrahim is determined to make his way to become a productive citizen.
He starts to bunk with Diane while looking for work, a situation that quickly becomes a permanent. They stay platonic friends (this seems to be mostly his call), but she is always there for him when he needs support and a reminder of why he is there. He takes a job at a mini-mart run by a fellow Lebanese ex-patriot. He’s way overqualified for the work and it doesn’t pay well, but he is happy for the opportunity. He starts taking citizenship classes and meets a beautiful Muslim girl. It looks like things are finally going his way.
A pair of robberies committed on his work and home change all that and soon he is homeless, jobless and estranged from Diane. However, when he protects a Jewish man who is being attacked by some skinheads, he becomes a local hero and is offered a new job.
However, the good news can’t keep going for long, he soon finds the government has never given up on the idea that he was connected to the terrorists. They try to deport him, so he must fight for his citizenship with the help of a kindly lawyer (played by The Princess Bride’s Cary Elwes).
Some of this seems romanticized. Particularly the fact that a beautiful American woman like Diane would so completely trust Ibrahim that she would let him come to live with her a single day after he met her, even after the government decides he may have something to do with the attacks. However, I suppose a big point of the movie is that America is the land of opportunity. If you work hard and are kind and upbeat, you too can find milk and honey, so to speak.
Also, occasionally it seems like the film is playing whack-a-mole with Ibrahim, knocking him down often and violently to make his faith in his new homeland much harder won.
However, like its eternal optimist of a main character, The Citizen has an obvious love of the American experience that makes it possible to overlook the little flaws.
It is also quite nice that in a period where almost all film representations of Muslim characters are portrayed as sinister villains, we get to take a look at an immigrant who truly wants nothing more but than to find his way and his dream in this country.
It’s a little sad that this is something that is so rare. Therefore if The Citizen is a tiny bit overly sentimental and perhaps occasionally a little manipulative, it is still well worth seeing.
Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 27, 2013.