Although ‘USA vs Al-Arian’ starts out a bit dry, it leaves you in turmoil. Sami Al-Arian was only recently released on bail. And that while he has now been acquitted on all counts two years ago. A lawsuit is still hanging over his head. Sami Al-Arian and his wife have lived in the United States for years. They are both children of refugees from Palestine. They live in Tampa, Florida with their five children and Al-Arian works as a university professor. He has strong views on the Israeli occupation of his country that has been going on for more than 35 years. He does not hide that opinion and tries to create as much support as possible. He lectures and speaks at protests and even has photos of him and George W. Bush and also one with Hillary Clinton. He spoke to them on these occasions about the Palestinian-Israeli question. Despite this, he is a potential terrorist according to the US government. It turns out that his phone has been tapped for nine years.
Al-Arian has set up many charitable funds that, according to the prosecutor, are a cover to finance his terrorist cell. All those involved in the process have their say on a regular basis, making it a nuanced story that eventually turns into drama for an entire family. But not only for this family. This history is also very bad for the entire Western, so-called democratic world. Laila, Sami’s wife, it all gets too much at one point. Her husband is imprisoned and tries to uphold his family’s morals, but that may put a lot of pressure on them. The youngest daughter, who no longer knows what it was like when Daddy was still at home, is sent to relatives in Cairo. There she can get enough attention from grandparents and she no longer has to feel the pressure. When he is acquitted because, as one juror said, “there is no evidence,” the revelry is short-lived. The processes, deals and false agreements lead to a disastrous turn. It leaves the viewer in anger, despair and tears. Let alone how the Al-Arian family experienced this themselves.
Hopefully, the Barack Obama era will bring more light to these dark, paranoid years of two George W. Bush reigns. Insha’Allah! ‘USA vs Al-Arian’ was quite rightly awarded the Audience Award at the Tromsø International Film Festival and was voted best film at the New Orleans Human Rights Film Festival.