Cherien Dabis says she became a filmmaker "to change the world - as naive and idealistic and cliched as it sounds."
Cherien Dabis says she became a filmmaker "to change the world - as naive and idealistic and cliched as it sounds."

Life on the outside: Amreeka



Life has been going non-stop for Cherien Dabis since her film Amreeka debuted at Sundance last year. A year on the festival circuit, including Cannes, followed. The cautionary tale about getting what you wish for - and it not turning out to be what you expected - starts in Palestine, where the character Muna struggles to raise her family on her own after the failure of her marriage. When she wins the American Green Card lottery, she quits her job in a bank and heads to Illinois to live with her brother and his three daughters. In America, life is much harder than she ever expected.

In one of the most striking scenes Muna and her son are interrogated by Homeland Security for several hours at the airport, in an echo of the family's earlier treatment at checkpoints in the West Bank. Dabis, who also wrote the screenplay, says: "The film is semi-autobiographical, loosely based on my family and their experience as Arabs in a small town in the First World." Dabis's father is Palestinian and her mother is Jordanian. They moved to the United States in the early 1970s. When the director was born in Nebraska in 1976, she was the first in the family to be born in America. Raised in a small town in Ohio, she flitted between the Midwest and the Middle East during her adolescence.

Going between Jordan and America, she says, was "very strange". "They are such different worlds and I think I suffered from an extreme identity crisis growing up. I always felt like an outsider. In the Arab world I was known as the American and in America I was the Arab, and I didn't feel like either of those. I was somewhere in the middle. It's the quintessential first-generation dilemma." Dabis says she felt more American than Arab, but she remembers that her view on life changed the day George Bush Sr declared war on Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. "My father was a doctor like the character in the film," she says. "A paediatrician. He saved some lives in the town and people were proud of him until the first Gulf war hit and suddenly he became the enemy overnight. People walked in the office, asked for their medical records and left. They didn't want to be treated by an Arab anymore."

All of a sudden the American ideal she believed in was shattered. "We got death threats," she recalls. "It was crazy. The secret service came to my high school to investigate the rumour that my 17-year-old sister threatened to kill the president. I was 14 years old. I was really shocked. I couldn't understand why people were believing this. People thought we were Muslims. We went to church with them and they still thought that. It was absurd. They'd ask us if there were cars in Jordan and we'd be like: 'No, we take a Boeing 747 and land in the middle of the desert on sand and then take camels to our mud huts. What do you think?'"

Dabis was forced to reassess her whole way of thinking and how she saw herself in the world. "When I was younger, I wanted to feel more American but the first Gulf war shifted that for me. I realised I'm not just American. In many ways I'm not even American, I'm something other than that. It's a mix. In some ways I really am. I live in New York now." The absurdity that she saw in her life has filtered into the mix of anger and comedy that imbues her debut feature film.

Dabis studied film at Columbia University, where she made her short film, Make a Wish, about a Palestinian girl who wants to buy a birthday cake but doesn't have enough money. She hits the streets of Ramallah and tries to raise the cash. Ambitiously, Dabis decided to shoot the film in Palestine. It was a difficult struggle, she recalls. "I didn't really know what I was doing. It was the first time I'd been in Palestine in 20 years. My father took us when I was eight years old and we had such a hard time at the border that he vowed never to take us back. So 20 years later it was like a pilgrimage for me to make my film. I've been going back quite a bit since then. The shooting of my short film was really the groundwork for the six days when we went there to shoot scenes for Amreeka, which went smoothly because the people that my director of photography and I had worked with for Make a Wish had continued to work in film. There was a burgeoning film community and we knew the pitfalls that we faced."

But the scenes that were shot in America are closest to the director, who was nominated by Variety as one of the 10 directors to watch in 2009. Writing from her experience, she wanted to show how a war in a distant land can make prejudices surface. Muna's son, despite a lesson in how to survive high school from his cousin, cannot escape chastisement from his new peers. Writing the script was personal, Dabis says. "I see myself in all the characters in the film. The eldest daughter is the one whose experiences is closest to mine. The mother, I can relate to her homesickness. I grew up with a mother who was homesick for 15 years, who cried every day, and it's hard not to inherit that sadness as a kid."

Despite her experience in the 1990s, Dabis chose the second Gulf war rather than the first as the setting for Amreeka because the atmosphere at the outbreak of the war and during its initial stages is fresh in people's minds. It also meant that she could choose one of the strongest visual images of both the wars. "I chose the period of the beginning of the invasion, and the statue of Saddam being toppled was a time marker. It happened in April," Dabis says. "The US invaded in March 2003, and the statue fell the next month. I wanted to show something that happened in the US during wartime, the insane patriotism that occurs. It's why people turn on the neighbour that they lived next to for 10 years, and they're suddenly suspicious. That's something my family experienced in 1991. I think it's something very specific to patriotism. It's prevalent when it's not wartime but war brings it out in a really intense way."

Dabis was so disillusioned with America that, until recently, she was thinking about leaving. "In some ways, my relationship with America has changed. I was ready to be an expat after eight years of [George W] Bush. I thought: 'If another Republican is voted in, I'm leaving the country.' America really surprised me by electing Obama and something interesting is happening here. I want to stick around and be part of a movement of change."

The need and desire to improve society is prevalent in all of her work. After graduating from film school, she worked for three seasons on Showtime's much-talked-about television series The L Word as a writer, producer and director. She was not only straddling the two worlds of the Middle East and America but also the battle of gender stereotypes and roles within America itself. The fight for women's rights is at the heart of her work. She wants to tell women's stories and show audiences a more matriarchal society. "I think that I am definitely interested in portraying strong women. I grew up in a matriarchal household and my parents raised five really strong women, but we don't get to see it very often on screen. Women have a different experience in the world than men do, so clearly we're going to have a different point of view and maybe show another side to the culture."

Dabis admits that this desire for change was the primary reason that she chose directing as a career. "I wanted to change the world as a filmmaker - as naive and idealistic and cliched as it sounds to say that. I saw an opportunity to change people's perceptions about certain things. I still think that's possible. Film is a powerful medium that can give people experiences they might not have." Such has been the success of her debut film that the director is readying herself for her sophomore project. This time she plans to shoot in the Middle East. "My next project is not completely different," she says. "In some ways it's the reverse of Amreeka: a 30-year-old Palestinian-American who goes to Jordan for the summer and connects with their roots."

Again, it's a script she will write herself. "I think I'd like to continue generating my own material. To write something is to be so intimately familiar with it that you want to hold on to it and see it through to the end. I would be open to directing other people's scripts but that's harder." The danger, of course, is of being a director of ideas rather than plot, which is what holds audience interest. But it's something she has been wary of. "I'm not certain I'm thinking of a message, which might sound weird, given why I became a filmmaker. I was aware of not making an issue-driven film and wanted to make a character-driven film, giving people access into who we are. I wanted people to walk away with a feeling, an emotion, a familiarity and if they stop and question their assumption, then great. If they stop and think twice before they stereotype, then great. It was sort of like I wanted to put a story out there that wouldn't otherwise be told."

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation 2 to 5
Rating: 5/5

If you go

The flights Etihad (www.etihad.com) and Spice Jet (www.spicejet.com) fly direct from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Pune respectively from Dh1,000 return including taxes. Pune airport is 90 minutes away by road. 

The hotels A stay at Atmantan Wellness Resort (www.atmantan.com) costs from Rs24,000 (Dh1,235) per night, including taxes, consultations, meals and a treatment package.
 

Mina Cup winners

Under 12 – Minerva Academy

Under 14 – Unam Pumas

Under 16 – Fursan Hispania

Under 18 – Madenat

EA Sports FC 24

Developer: EA Vancouver, EA Romania
Publisher: EA Sports
Consoles: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox One
Rating: 3.5/5

Takreem Awards winners 2021

Corporate Leadership: Carl Bistany (Lebanon)

Cultural Excellence: Hoor Al Qasimi (UAE)

Environmental Development and Sustainability: Bkerzay (Lebanon)

Environmental Development and Sustainability: Raya Ani (Iraq)

Humanitarian and Civic Services: Women’s Programs Association (Lebanon)

Humanitarian and Civic Services: Osamah Al Thini (Libya)

Excellence in Education: World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) (Qatar)

Outstanding Arab Woman: Balghis Badri (Sudan)

Scientific and Technological Achievement: Mohamed Slim Alouini (KSA)

Young Entrepreneur: Omar Itani (Lebanon)

Lifetime Achievement: Suad Al Amiry (Palestine)

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Bareilly Ki Barfi
Directed by: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Starring: Kriti Sanon, Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao
Three and a half stars

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian
Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).


Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).


Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming
Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics
Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

BRAZIL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Ederson, Weverton

Defenders: Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Eder Militao , Danilo, Alex Sandro, Alex Telles, Bremer.

Midfielders: Casemiro, Fred, Fabinho, Bruno Guimaraes, Lucas Paqueta, Everton Ribeiro.

Forwards: Neymar, Vinicius Junior, Richarlison, Raphinha, Antony, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Pedro, Rodrygo

Where to donate in the UAE

The Emirates Charity Portal

You can donate to several registered charities through a “donation catalogue”. The use of the donation is quite specific, such as buying a fan for a poor family in Niger for Dh130.

The General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments

The site has an e-donation service accepting debit card, credit card or e-Dirham, an electronic payment tool developed by the Ministry of Finance and First Abu Dhabi Bank.

Al Noor Special Needs Centre

You can donate online or order Smiles n’ Stuff products handcrafted by Al Noor students. The centre publishes a wish list of extras needed, starting at Dh500.

Beit Al Khair Society

Beit Al Khair Society has the motto “From – and to – the UAE,” with donations going towards the neediest in the country. Its website has a list of physical donation sites, but people can also contribute money by SMS, bank transfer and through the hotline 800-22554.

Dar Al Ber Society

Dar Al Ber Society, which has charity projects in 39 countries, accept cash payments, money transfers or SMS donations. Its donation hotline is 800-79.

Dubai Cares

Dubai Cares provides several options for individuals and companies to donate, including online, through banks, at retail outlets, via phone and by purchasing Dubai Cares branded merchandise. It is currently running a campaign called Bookings 2030, which allows people to help change the future of six underprivileged children and young people.

Emirates Airline Foundation

Those who travel on Emirates have undoubtedly seen the little donation envelopes in the seat pockets. But the foundation also accepts donations online and in the form of Skywards Miles. Donated miles are used to sponsor travel for doctors, surgeons, engineers and other professionals volunteering on humanitarian missions around the world.

Emirates Red Crescent

On the Emirates Red Crescent website you can choose between 35 different purposes for your donation, such as providing food for fasters, supporting debtors and contributing to a refugee women fund. It also has a list of bank accounts for each donation type.

Gulf for Good

Gulf for Good raises funds for partner charity projects through challenges, like climbing Kilimanjaro and cycling through Thailand. This year’s projects are in partnership with Street Child Nepal, Larchfield Kids, the Foundation for African Empowerment and SOS Children's Villages. Since 2001, the organisation has raised more than $3.5 million (Dh12.8m) in support of over 50 children’s charities.

Noor Dubai Foundation

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the Noor Dubai Foundation a decade ago with the aim of eliminating all forms of preventable blindness globally. You can donate Dh50 to support mobile eye camps by texting the word “Noor” to 4565 (Etisalat) or 4849 (du).

What is a black hole?

1. Black holes are objects whose gravity is so strong not even light can escape their pull

2. They can be created when massive stars collapse under their own weight

3. Large black holes can also be formed when smaller ones collide and merge

4. The biggest black holes lurk at the centre of many galaxies, including our own

5. Astronomers believe that when the universe was very young, black holes affected how galaxies formed

Prop idols

Girls full-contact rugby may be in its infancy in the Middle East, but there are already a number of role models for players to look up to.

Sophie Shams (Dubai Exiles mini, England sevens international)

An Emirati student who is blazing a trail in rugby. She first learnt the game at Dubai Exiles and captained her JESS Primary school team. After going to study geophysics at university in the UK, she scored a sensational try in a cup final at Twickenham. She has played for England sevens, and is now contracted to top Premiership club Saracens.

----

Seren Gough-Walters (Sharjah Wanderers mini, Wales rugby league international)

Few players anywhere will have taken a more circuitous route to playing rugby on Sky Sports. Gough-Walters was born in Al Wasl Hospital in Dubai, raised in Sharjah, did not take up rugby seriously till she was 15, has a master’s in global governance and ethics, and once worked as an immigration officer at the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi. In the summer of 2021 she played for Wales against England in rugby league, in a match that was broadcast live on TV.

----

Erin King (Dubai Hurricanes mini, Ireland sevens international)

Aged five, Australia-born King went to Dubai Hurricanes training at The Sevens with her brothers. She immediately struck up a deep affection for rugby. She returned to the city at the end of last year to play at the Dubai Rugby Sevens in the colours of Ireland in the Women’s World Series tournament on Pitch 1.

The biog

Favourite pet: cats. She has two: Eva and Bito

Favourite city: Cape Town, South Africa

Hobby: Running. "I like to think I’m artsy but I’m not".

Favourite move: Romantic comedies, specifically Return to me. "I cry every time".

Favourite spot in Abu Dhabi: Saadiyat beach

UAE Warriors 33 Results

Featherweight title
Ali Al Qaisi by Jesse Arnett by submission, round 3
Welterweight title
Josh Togo bt Tahir Abdullaev by unanimous decision
Flyweight
Iago Ribeiro bt Juan Puerta by unanimous decision
Middleweight
Yerkin Darmen bt Tyler Ray by TKO, round 3
Welterweight
Abdulla Al Bousheiri bt John Adajar by submission, round 1
Catchweight 232lb
Asylzhan Bakhytzhanuly bt Hasan Yousefi by submission, round 2
Catchweight 176lb
Alin Chirila bt Silas Robson by KO, round 1
Catchweight 176lb
Arvin Chan bt Abdi Farah by TKO, round 1
Lightweight
Ole-Jorgen Johnsen bt Nart Abida by TKO, round 1
Bantamweight
Otar Tanzilov bt Eduardo Dinis by TKO, round 3
Strawweight
Coline Biron bt Aysun Erge via submission, round 2
Welterweight
Soslan Margiev bt Mathieu Rakotondrazanany by unanimous decision
Bantamweight
Bakhromjon Ruziev bt Younes Chemali by majority decision

Museum of the Future in numbers
  • 78 metres is the height of the museum
  • 30,000 square metres is its total area
  • 17,000 square metres is the length of the stainless steel facade
  • 14 kilometres is the length of LED lights used on the facade
  • 1,024 individual pieces make up the exterior 
  • 7 floors in all, with one for administrative offices
  • 2,400 diagonally intersecting steel members frame the torus shape
  • 100 species of trees and plants dot the gardens
  • Dh145 is the price of a ticket
Uefa Nations League

League A:
Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, France, England, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Iceland, Croatia, Netherlands

League B:
Austria, Wales, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, Republic of Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Turkey

League C:
Hungary, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia, Greece, Serbia, Albania, Norway, Montenegro, Israel, Bulgaria, Finland, Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania

League D:
Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Latvia, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Liechtenstein, Malta, Andorra, Kosovo, San Marino, Gibraltar

Manchester United's summer dealings

In

Victor Lindelof (Benfica) £30.7 million

Romelu Lukaku (Everton) £75 million

Nemanja Matic (Chelsea) £40 million

Out

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Released

Wayne Rooney (Everton) Free transfer

Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad) £9.8 million

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

The specs

Engine: 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 10-speed auto
Power: 410hp
Torque: 495Nm
Price: starts from Dh495,000 (Dh610,000 for the F-Sport launch edition tested)
On sale: now

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

Getting there
Flydubai flies direct from Dubai to Tbilisi from Dh1,025 return including taxes

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
Power: 261hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750-4,000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel consumption: 10.5L/100km
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh129,999 (VX Luxury); from Dh149,999 (VX Black Gold)

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888


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