What Americans casually take for granted remains the desperate and determined dream of many outside the nation’s borders. Freedom. Freedom to live, love, and laugh – to make of life whatever one wishes. Such was the dream of mid-east immigrant Ibrahim (Khaled Nabawy) in Sam Kadi’s agreeably constructed film, “The Citizen.”
After years of trying to immigrate to the US, Ibrahim receives notice of having won the Citizen Lottery; the US Green Card Visa program that allows only 50K individuals to enter the country annually with the potential to become citizens). Ibrahim was excited. Ibrahim came to the US with expectation. Ibrahim arrived on September 10, 2001. One day later his life, as was every life in America, changed forever.
Ibrahim is an idealist who is a bit naïve about America and Americans. He believes in the ideals of the nation and of the best in everyone. For his effort he is beaten and abused and faces deportation. The American Dream can be very elusive to so many.
Kadi (director and co-writer with Darnell Brown and Samir Younis) peppered a single, fictitious but poignant story with real events that occurred to others who braved coming to America. Especially after 9/11. Distrust. Bigotry. Hatred. The eruption of the baser elements of human nature pours over those wishing a better life.
“The Citizen” flows with a cinematic elegance, from arriving in the US, facing Customs, finding an apartment, to going to court, we’re provided a gentleness that belies the extreme trial Ibrahim was experiencing.
Nabawy played Ibrahim with a bright and calm innocence. Believable in confusion, touching in frustration. Agnes Bruckner (Diane) befriends Ibrahim and they become an on-screen item, though missing was any reference to how the relationship turned from casual encounter to roommates. Bruckner played off Nabawy nicely. In fact, the entire cast formed a solid ensemble that kept our attention.
Pleasantly missing, too, were the typical Hollywood shtick of violence, vulgarity, and skin for the sake of violence, vulgarity, and skin. The film provides a solid product without gratuitous offense for the sake of attention. “The Citizen” doesn’t claim a political agenda, stance, or necessity. It simply tells a story using the truth that surrounds our reality.
Kadi’s “The Citizen” is a strong story, a reaffirming story, a reconnecting story of citizenry to a nation, all seen through the eyes of an immigrant. It’s worth a view.
The final Cinequest 23 showing of “The Citizen” will be Friday, March 8, at 7:00pm; Camera 12.
— Review written by W. Fred Crow —