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“AMREEKA” writer-director, Cherien Dabis

[PREMIERE SCREENING: Saturday, Jan. 17, 12:15 pm — Eccles Theatre, Park City]

I didn’t respond to the changes in the way people are beginning to view cinema today. My story development process, which began back in 2003, was very much influenced by my own personal experience and my need for authenticity, especially in light of the political issues that rose to the forefront after 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Iraq. From the start I knew that I wanted to craft a universal story and imbue it with humor so that it was accessible and relatable to a mass audience, but I wasn’t at all thinking about new forms of distribution. If anything, I was dreaming of the big screen. Aside from that, I thought or hoped rather that people would watch the film on television and eventually the Internet. Any screen smaller than a computer didn’t even register because it doesn’t appeal to me for long form, especially if subtitles are concerned. It’s too difficult to appreciate the filmmaking let alone immerse oneself in the story on a cell phone screen.

I think these small-screen viewing models work best for the short form. And while I can appreciate the new forms of storytelling that they’re inspiring, I gravitate toward a more traditional definition. I like a well-structured, character-driven story that allows the audience to emotionally connect with the material. Without that connection, I find myself wandering. It was very important to me in Amreeka to create the intimacy necessary to allow the audience to feel like they know these characters and can relate to them. Each story is different but for this particular one, that connection was what I was hoping to achieve. And I think that’s important to preserve.

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