The Citizen (2013)
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, filmmaker Sam Kadi’s feature debut is a gripping tale of courage, love, and perseverance, the qualities of a true citizen.
Genre : Drama
Country : US
Khaled Nabawy : Ibrahim
Agnes Bruckner : Diane
Rizwan Manji : Mo
“Terrorists don’t get lawyers.”
“The Citizen” is the story of a Syrian immigrant Ibrahim Jarrah (Khaled Nabawy), born in Lebanon, who had to move in the Middle East a few times due to the Lebanese civil war and the invasion of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait. He was fortunate to win a “Green Card” in the U.S. Greencard lottery and thus find happiness in the U.S. and pursue the American dream. He arrives on 10 September 2010, one day before disaster strikes. Ibrahim claims he’s not born for happiness. He’s amazed about the fact that he has won a “Green Card”. However, he doesn’t realize what’s hanging over his head.
It’s not exactly a happy movie and you will be discouraged in Ibrahim’s place. That a man sometimes experiences some setbacks in his life is perfectly normal. But in this film it’s just an accumulation of problems and it becomes such a misery that you surely would start doing something wrong. If I was him, I would have turned my back to the U.S. immediately. Ibrahim is an example of perseverance and conviction. If the saying “Persistence pays off” doesn’t exist in Syria, then they could include it in a book about proverbs with a reference to him. His persistence to succeed as a businessman in the U.S. and eventually acquire the status of an American citizen is admirable.
Khaled Nabawy, an Egyptian actor, plays the role of Ibrahim in a brilliant way. A naive young man who is friendly, has charisma and a charming personality. A good Samaritan from the Middle East who always sees the positive side in everyday things and accepts the way things happen to him. A man who wants to fulfill his dream by planting a good deed every day, as he says. “Everything happens for a reason. I just do not know the reason yet.” His personality and appearance immediately wipes all prejudices about Muslims from the table.
And that’s the biggest obstacle that he encounters on his way to citizenship. The impact of the terrorist attack on the “Twin Towers”. Automatically he’s looked at with suspicion, and he’s the victim of prejudice and discrimination. All the evidence pleads against him: his cousin doesn’t show up at his arrival and he tells a lie about where he’s staying that night, subsequently it seems that his nephew had contacts with those who are responsible for these attacks, his last name is the same as one of the terrorists and he was filmed during an anti-Bush demonstration where he participated in chanting slogans. The heroic act he performed by defending a Jewish young man who was beaten up by a group of skinheads, doesn’t change the fact that he’s still seen as a threat to the country, after which he institutes legal procedures against his mandatory deportation. That’s how the movie started anyway.
Despite the excellent acting performance of Khalid and Agnes Bruckner, the cute girl named Diane who Ibrahim helped in the beginning and who became his refuge and guardian, it’s still a dull film with a bunch of cliches. Eventually it just feels like a weekend movie of which a lot have been created already in the past. Such a weekend movie with a moral and social message about how someone gets back on top despite all the trouble he went through and succeeds in his preconceived plan. The end was a fairytale monstrosity. Spontaneously I started to roll my eyes until they looked in the direction of Mecca. A kind of Cinderella but then interpreted by a Muslim with his sweets transformed into a beauty of a car in front of a respectable house, with his lovely wife (You really can’t guess who that’ll be) and a cute little son.
Then there were also some small things I found rather bizarre. Ibrahim totally didn’t know how his cousin ended up in the U.S.. Yet this cousin had to pick him up. I would have obtained some information about him before I arrived there. And not even once during his entire stay he tried to figure out where this cousin lives and what the reason was for not showing up. I find that rather odd. And the fact that he was talking to a classmate during a coffee and popped the big question after five minutes, I found laughable. And finally I thought it was fairly simplistic how he could put that lawyer in his place while he was still following an English course for God’s sake.
It seems it’s based on testimonies of people from the Middle East about their experiences after the attacks of 9/11. The way it affected their daily lives and how suddenly the American citizens judged them different. Ibrahim was also seen as an invader and a threat after the events. “The citizen” is a contemporary drama about immigration with a rather banal and simplistic storyline.