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Someone needs to tell “Amira & Sam” that it’s getting everything wrong. EVERYTHING.

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.

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.

By 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.

14 replies on “Someone needs to tell “Amira & Sam” that it’s getting everything wrong. EVERYTHING.”

Lol the funniest is that after she’s in bed with him and her Hijab is still on. I wonder at what point in their relationship the two agreed that he could “unveil” her. Getting into bed together clearly was not a pre-requisite.
And the saddest part is that “Amira” is Arab woman who you would THINK knows better.

I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. Contemporary movies have mocked at every race and religion. The purity of the Hindu Guru tradition was mocked in the Porno Guru movie. We see Thai women portrayed as sex workers half the time. Why not have a Muslim woman in bed with her Hijab still on? Maybe the man was in a rush and didn’t get around to taking it off? Or maybe the director wants to make a statement and still have a symbol of her identity there so the audience does not forget that Muslim women are just ordinary women like everyone else. I know Muslim women that keep their Hijab on during the day and throw it off at night. They fornicate too. A hijab essentially is not a symbol of that woman being more chaste than a hijabless woman. There is no difference. These type of movies need to be watched to help us understand that no one is better than another person

Amira could have easily ordered a non-alcoholic drink in the bar scene. If the movie doesn’t say she’s actually drinking alcohol, assume she has a virgin drink.

Thank you for acknowledging the “skin” issue. I stopped and rewound the trailer like three times to the scene in the street where she’s wearing a short (to the knees) skirt and a hijab. It makes me laugh. I mean, almost as loud as when I laugh at the girls around here wearing short-sleeved shirts and hijabs. I’m like, “Honey, I think you missed the point. It’s okay to have your gams showing…but don’t let anybody see a lock of hair!”

I think this had the potential to be a great film. But, unfortunately, it looks to be stereotypical…written from a “savior” position (white man, non-Muslim, whatever)…

However, gotta give ’em props for the joke at the beginning:

“You smell like a cop.”

“I brought doughnuts. I think that’s what you’re smelling.”

I can’t believe something like this still happens. Don’t they get it that its a fashion mishap, hijab and short skirt? Hijab and short sleeve red dress baring legs on a motorbike? That’s supposed to be sexy but NO. And I’m not even going any deeper abt the movie here.

Not a mishap. Her dress style was done PURPOSELY this way, as was the criticism and abuse she was getting in the street from another Muslim woman. She was PURPOSELY shown to be trying alcohol for the first time. She was PURPOSELY displayed in be in bed with a man, a conflicted person, still wearing her hijab. I think its time for you to actually watch the movie after you are finished with your dogma.

The Amira fashion setup was intentional. Early in the movie a hijabi woman criticizes Amira for showing skin while wearing a hijab, and Amira tells her off. The hijab allows her to be the object of critical remarks at the engagement party.

Anyhow, it turns out Amira does drink. She was given a whiskey at the party.

No actually its whiskey. Sam influences her to try whiskey and she does.

I watched the movie and I was wondering is Amira is a real muslim girl outside the movie. I’m sorry, I was just curious.

At least you only watched the trailer, i just watched the whole movie! I’m not a hijabi myself but I cringed at her wardrobe. This woman doesn’t take her scarf off ever! Not even when they’re alone sharing a single bed, but she shows her cleavage at an engagement party (like proper cleavage guys, the dress was designed to reveal it).
All of her other actions are understandable. The drinking, being with a man, we get it, she’s not an orthodox muslim, that’s fine. It’s a realistic representation of many. But the purpose of hijab is modesty. If she valued it so much, that she couldn’t take her headscarf off even while she was sleeping, even while she was alone with Sam, why would she reveal so much of her body to strangers?? The people who made this movie clearly didn’t bother to research why women wear hijab in the first place. The movie had the potential to be something wonderful. Instead we ended up with yet another ignorant portrayal of a muslim woman.

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