The Citizen: Lifeless 9/11 Drama
Written and directed by the Syrian-born director, Sam Kadi, The Citizen sets out to highlight the hardships faced by Arab settlers in the US during the aftermath of 9/11. Despite appearing at several international film festivals, the film unfortunately falls short in both complexity and spirit.
After winning the green-card lottery, Lebanese immigrant, Ibrahim Jarrah (Nabawy), arrives in New York City on September 10, 2001. Determined to leave his troubling past behind, he is ready to live the American Dream.
Soon after arriving, Ibrahim checks into a Brooklyn motel where he finds himself saving a young woman from an abusive boyfriend. The girl in question is Diane (Bruckner); a pretty, young waitress who is instantly taken by the soft-spoken stranger and offers him a tour of the city as a way of saying thank you. The pair is quick to bond, but the next morning, their worlds change forever.
Almost immediately after the tragic events, Ibrahim is apprehended by US government officials and is held for questioning – for a total of six months – about his ties and connections to a mysterious cousin he mentioned on his arrival. However, with no substantial evidence, he is set free, only to face prejudices at every corner.
Painted with a soulful and a sorrowing mettle, Egyptian actor, Nabawy, proves to be a fairly likable lead. Quiet, courageous and mannerly, Ibrahim’s character is easy to connect to as a gutsy underdog who is putting everything on the line to better himself. And although his execution lacks bite and passion at times, he still manages to sustain the geniality of his character throughout. Bruckner, on the other hand, falls back on her television soap-opera experience and stands out like a sore thumb in what is generally a solemn and hushed tone.
The real issue with The Citizen, however, is that it plays out like shoddy TV-movie, especially in terms of aesthetics. The plot moves along with a sense of urgency, but is never really fleshed out and is dramatically uneven. Though the central character’s rocky road is one that any empathetic person should engage with, the audience is told how to feel and is never given the chance to recognise the wider issue of immigration and equality.
By anchoring itself so lucidly to the events of 9/11, The Citizen never really gets to fully develop; its ready-packaged message is delivered in the most inorganic of ways and ends up being conventional in its sentiments.