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My Review of “The Citizen” From the Heartland Film Festival

October 29, 2012

One of the films I saw as part of the Heartland Film Festival was “The Citizen”.   Here’s a quick plot outline taken from the film’s Facebook page:

Yearning to leave behind his life of misfortune in the Middle East, Ibrahim Jarrah wins the U.S Green Card Lottery for a chance to become an American citizen. Ibrahim lands in New York City the day before 9/11 …and the events of the September terrorist attacks forever shape the struggles he faces on his journey to capture the American dream.

Inspired by true events, The Citizen stars Khaled Nabawy (Fair Game), Agnes Bruckner (Blood and Chocolate), Rizwan Manji (Outsourced), Bill Atherton (Ghostbusters), and Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride). Filmmaker Sam Kadi’s feature debut is a gripping tale of courage, love, and perseverance, the qualities of a true CITIZEN.

This film left me in tears. I was so sad because the entire premise of the movie is to frame this man for something he had no relation to whatsoever. The fact that Ibrahim works so hard throughout his time here, and his bright-eyed thoughts about America leave him that way is one of the most awful things about the movie. Simply put, his naivete leaves him more vulnerable than I ever imagined. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time leaves him in court, facing deportation.

How often we judge those we know nothing about, simply out of fear. It is important for national security to be wary, especially in our times, but I found it difficult to side with a country who treats Muslims, Jews, African-Americans and others with such poor regard. How is it any different now than it was during the civil rights movement? Aren’t we judging Muslims just like we judged African-Americans? No, we aren’t making them visit separate movie theaters, grocery stores, and we even let them drink from the same fountain as everyone else, but tell me you haven’t gone into a restaurant and felt mildly uncomfortable with a couple men sitting next to you who worship Allah. Isn’t it all the same God? I know I’ve fallen victim of fear at the airport, and so have you. It must stop. Not everyone is a terrorist.

This movie didn’t open my eyes to something I didn’t already knew, but it did share another story of yet another person left victimized by Americans. It left me crying, upset and feeling foolish. Yet another Truly Moving Picture!

And again, special thanks to the FireBelly crew for allowing me to be a part of the Heartland Film Festival’s social media crew!

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