The 2021 CAAMFest Audience Award-winning film debut by Iman Zawahry takes place in Jackson Heights, Queens where two sisters and their fresh-off-the-boat cousin try all the conventional ways to earn the love and respect of their mother. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abigail L. comments, “Although still containing classic rom-com clichés, this film introduces diverse cultural and ethnic characters and story arcs to American film audiences. Writer and director Imam Zawahry highlights the strength of feminism and family ties as she explores the ups and downs of women in the work force and romance.” See her full review below.
By Abigail Liu, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Americanish is a breath of fresh air as it looks at romantic comedy through a new lens. Although still containing classic rom-com clichés, this film introduces diverse cultural and ethnic characters and story arcs to American film audiences. Writer and director Imam Zawahry highlights the strength of feminism and family ties as she explores the ups and downs of women in the work force and romance.
Set in New York City, the lives of three Pakistani women are thrown into turmoil while they endure career, family, romance and culture clashes. Maryam (Salena Qureshi), a college student who dreams of attending Harvard Medical School, worries about her MCAT score and navigates her crush with her study partner, Shahid (Kapil Talwalkar), who happens to be married. Meanwhile, Maryam’s older sister, Khala (Lillete Dubey), attempts to score a work promotion and ignores the advances of a well-intentioned police officer. Their cousin, Ameera (Shenaz Treasury), moves in with their family from Pakistan in search of a doctor to marry, but her budding friendship with the local store clerk (Godfrey) risks putting a damper on her plans.
This film successfully shows the struggle of balancing cultural traditions with personal ambition through love and marriage, careers and family. When reading the summary of this story, it first seems overused and bland, but it is quite the opposite – the message conveyed in the film is meaningful and empowering. The acting feels unconvincing at times, but the film’s message makes up for it. Even though there are a lot of Hollywood romantic comedy clichés found in the film, there are moments that are genuinely humorous and funny. My favorite part is the separate, but connected, stories of the three women. As the story progresses, they grow closer as they find themselves relating to one another in their disappointments with romance.
Americanish teaches women of all ages that it is never too late to find love and that being a woman can mean whatever you want it to be, whether that is becoming a successful businesswoman, a doctor or a loving wife. Parents should be aware that this film contains implied sex, references to adult minor language and references to sexism and racism.
I rate Americanish 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. This film can be viewed now at select festivals.