The CitizenOriginal Title: The Citizen
Director: Sam Kadi
USA | English
What would have happened to an Arab immigrant unlucky enough to arrive in New York the day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks? The narrative potential in such a scenario is vast and Sam Kadi’s feature debut does not shy away from examining how fundamental freedoms were jeopardised amid the nation’s reflexive reactions to those appalling events. It makes for dramatic viewing.
After 12 years of trying, Ibrahim Jarrah (played by talented Egyptian actor Khaled Nabawy) is finally accepted by the Diversity Visa program; in other words, he wins the green card lottery and a chance to become an American. However, his happy arrival – made even happier
by Diane (Agnes Bruckner), a pretty New Yorker who gives him a tour of the city – is turned on its head the very next day by his being a Lebanese man adrift in a city suddenly distrustful of all Arabs. As The Citizen
unfolds, Ibrahim embodies the fate of too many: he suffers random violence, professional discrimination and the nightmare of secret incarceration.
However, as strongly portrayed by Nabawy, Ibrahim is much more than a symbol: his story feels personal and immediate.
After immigrating to the United States from Syria in 2000, Kadi saw firsthand the effect that 9/11 had on new arrivals from the Middle East, as fearmongering and the drive for vengeance took troubling forms. A decade later, The Citizen
is both a sobering reminder of how wrong things can go and a tribute to a country ready to reverse its mistakes.
– Kate Lawrie Van de Ven