Okay. So here’s the thing.

My friends know me to be a person who shouts at an ad if it just isn’t making sense, or provide running commentary for movies that everyone in the room knows to be a joke. It was only natural, then, for me to be unable to control my reactions when I saw the trailer for Amira & Sam, an independent film.

I have a history of being skeptical of movies that pretend to portray Muslim women, because, frankly, those Muslim women don’t look or act like any I’ve ever known. They certainly didn’t look or act like me. So you can imagine my skepticism and hesitation when I hit play on the trailer.

In case you want it, here’s part of  the film synopsis:

Rousing, smart, and sweet, Amira & Sam is a confident feature debut from writer-director Sean Mullin, and follows Sam (Martin Starr, “Freaks & Geeks”, “Silicon Valley”), an army veteran adapting back to civilian life after a lengthy tour overseas. Upon reuniting with his unit’s former Iraqi translator in New York City, he meets Amira (newcomer Dina Shihabi), his war buddy’s niece; suspicious of soldiers, she wants nothing to do with him. However, when Amira runs into immigration trouble, Sam offers to keep her safe at his apartment. After a rocky start, their unlikely friendship starts to blossom into something more.

So, here goes my commentary. You’ve been warned. Best read following a viewing of the trailer.

Homegirl had her scarf all ready for the moment her uncle called her out to say hello, AND she won’t even speak in English for that moment. My parents would have slapped me upside the head for being so rude.

Run, Amira, run. on Make A Gif

Then, you see her selling DVDs in the streets. I suppose that’s a probable premise, although if her uncle is as “Arab” and “stereotypically macho” as he seems to be in the beginning, why he would be cool with her doing something on the streets is on me.

Her father then trusts this man, who she couldn’t even speak English in front of about 15 seconds ago, to take care of Amira in his own apartment after she has a legal run-in for stupidly selling pirated DVDs on the streets in 2014.

Hello. What.

And then she is apparently wearing a tank top, and all bets are off for this supposedly traditional hijabi in a bar.

Listen, the drinking isn’t what bothers me here.

Scenes from Amira & Sam on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

Amira is then found in Sam’s bed, but suddenly, you find out she’s about to be deported.

Cue a lot of longing gazing into the sky and into the wall.

Cue the uncle telling Sam it’s his fault, and that he can’t be around Amira anymore. 

Sam from Amira & Sam on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs



Yes, honey, and please make a choice as to how you will wrap that scarf because good grief, was that the only reason your film got funded? Because it was a “controversial” topic of a hijabi who fell in love with a white man? Can we please take a moment and ask the thousands of women who have been in your situation, none of whom look as confused as you?

Listen, I am all for interfaith relationships – go for it. Do you. Do what makes you happy. But when you can’t even portray your character truly, wholly, realistically – THAT is when I have an issue.

THE SKIN. What is with these outfits.

Apparently the film director has never seen a hijabi in real life. I don’t think he’s even seen a woman in real life, because let’s be real, have a little self respect for how you match your outfits. 

Scenes of Amira and Sam together on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

What’s so disturbing about this, is that the more the relationship progresses, the less clothing she wears. THANK YOU, Indie Hollywood, for telling me and countless Muslim women, how we should be acting when we want to be liberated vis a vis a white man. Because, you know, it’s all about the skin, and screw everything else.

PLUS. For anyone that says it’s because she’s becoming a loud, outspoken feminist who knows her rights: take two steps back.

The less clothing she wears, the more helpless and quiet she gets. The more help she needs.


It’s the wet dream of every orientalist and white savior. AMIRA IS UNVEILED. Actually, it’s more like an unwrapping of a delicious gift. Because, you know, that’s what she is.

Not her own person, but the property of one man, entrusted to another, amidst her little cries of freedom.

Amira is unveiledon Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

I’m done, people. I’m going home.

  • Laila Alawa

    Laila Alawa is the CEO and Founder of The Tempest, a leading media company where the world goes to hear the stories of diverse millennial women. She is also the host for The Expose, a weekly podcast tackling tough topics with snark and wit. Her work has been mentioned in The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, Mashable, Color Lines, Bustle, Feministing, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. She's also appeared on Al-Jazeera America, BBC World News, NPR, and Huffington Post Live.