Cherien Dabis

Cohen Media Group

A second feature is often about risk. Cherien Dabis‘s first film, Amreeka, is an almost archetypal example of the debut America indie hit. It premiered at Sundance, gathered some excellent reviews and picked up three Independent Spirit Award nominations. The touching and occasionally quite funny story of an immigrant Palestinian Christian single mother living with her sister’s family in Illinois, it made for a charming arrival. Its success also challenges Dabis to do something different the second time around, to take a few risks and make the case that her style is versatile beyond the borders of light-hearted suburban social commentary. May in the Summer certainly tries to be a leap forward. Dabis’s most perilous choice was to cast herself in the lead role despite having no prior film acting experience. She plays May, the daughter of a devout Palestinian Christian woman (Hiam Abbass) and a somewhat flippant American diplomat (Bill Pullman). They’re unhappily, bitterly divorced. They raised their children in the United States, but both currently live in Amman. May lives in New York, but she’s returned to the Jordanian capital to plan her wedding to Ziad (Alexander Siddig), a Columbia professor. He’s Muslim, which horrifies her mother. The narrative stems from this conflict, with May’s two sisters Yasmine (Nadine Malouf) and Dalia (Alia Shawkat) along for the ride.

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The USA (United States Artists) is an organization that exists to continually support the work of emerging and established artists here in the United States. Every year, they dole out a grant of $50,000 to artists in several categories, including film. This year’s list includes the brilliant Ramin Bahrani (Goodbye Solo), Natalia Almada (The Other Side), Almudena Carracedo (Made in LA), Cherien Dabis (Amreeka), Anne Lewis (Morristown: In the Air and Sun), Tina Mabry (Mississippi Damned), and Laura Poitras (The Oath). We’re anxious to see what these talents continue to offer. For an interview with Ramin Bahrani, click in this vicinity.

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‘Amreeka,’ a hit at this year’s Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals, tells a warmhearted, recognizable story about a family of Palestinian immigrants that smartly resists the urge to preach or turn political.

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