NEWPORT BEACH FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Americanish is one of those romantic comedies that leave you with a good feeling about the world. There’s nothing like learning about another culture in your own country to realize things need to change. Even better is to poke a bit of fun at it, too. Director, co-writer, and co-producer Iman Zawahry and co-writer, c0-producer, and star Aizzah Fatima present a story about sisters and their cousin pursuing careers and love in the United States. Of note, the production hosted a primarily female crew, and its director, Zawahry, makes her feature-length debut here.
Based in New York City, specifically Jackson Heights, Queens, and Manhattan, Americanish examines the good and bad aspects of tradition while exposing the need for acceptance in society. From the onset, Zawahry presents a woman’s need to survive. A young mother, Khala (Lillete Dubey), is left to raise her two daughters, the older Sam (Aizzah Fatima) and younger Maryam (Salena Qureshi), all by herself. Cut to the future, Sam and Maryam are brilliant women engaged in their careers while seeking love.
“…a story about sisters and their cousin pursuing careers and love in the United States.”
They live in their mother’s tiny home, sharing a room with their recently arrived cousin Ameera (Shenaz Treasury). Ameera’s focus is to land a rich American husband. Khala is excited to have Ameera and immerses in the pursuit of marriage. All the while, Sam is climbing the corporate ladder as she’s desperate for an apartment in Manhattan and to have her own life. Maryam is studying to become a doctor but can’t help to want to fall in love too.
In Americanish, Zawahry takes us on a journey where all four women participate in a universal understanding of what matters in life. Each of them is beautiful and reveals a plan for their lives that is purposeful with meaning. Of course, there are moments of classic family drama between the family members, but it feels more earned and authentic than typical. Plus, Ameera’s ability to be the comic relief to it all, in such tiny quarters and in the midst of opposite cultural identities and purpose, is a welcomed one.
As the many men in Americanish fill out the picture of love, relationships, and job prospects, they also provide a purpose and lesson. Even though women dominate the story, the comedy and drama on how men and women relate to culture and traditions add a greater breadth and understanding of the message and theme. Also interesting to note is the first-hand view of tradition and ceremony, contemporary values and worth, and age-old myths that stems from the co-writers’ own lives. The humor throughout manages to blend the ideations of Pakistani and American culture, especially in the little things that are a part of everyone’s life.
"…leave[s] you with a good feeling about the world."