He knew no other life, and various flashbacks from his childhood show that Tariq always battled his Muslim identity. He was teased in school, he often took off his Kufi cap whenever he was not in the presence of his father. It was an obvious battle, and made him extremely introverted and visibly disturbed throughout most of the film.
Now while his mother, Safiyah, was a pleasant and spiritual Muslim woman, she took Tariq's younger sister and left Hassan while they were children, to be able to exercise even moderate freedoms. She didn't agree with all of Hassan's rules, and while she was still serving Allah, she did so at her own pace.
There were so many important things happening in this subtle look at an American family, living in Michigan. It wasn't overtly preachy or filled with stereotypical artifacts or attitudes...it was a moment in the life of a Muslim-American family, and an interesting insight into the challenges this particular family was facing.
It could have been any culture, any religion...and any family. But I LOVED the fact that it was a Muslim family, because it made me realize that these are images we RARELY if EVER see on the big screen, small screen, or any screen. I love that it was an African-American family, because it was a reminder that people of the Muslim faith come in all ethnicities and races.
There should be more of these on screen.
Now the movie "From Prada to Nada" (also released in early 2011) was definitely more lighthearted with occasional attempts at comedy, but the cultural take-away was just as fulfilling to me. This is a story directed by Angel Gracia, based on the plot of Jane Austen's "Sense & Sensibility."
It's about two "rich" Mexican-American sisters who are forced to leave their lavish lifestyle and spending habits behind after the death of their widowed father. They move from their Beverley Hills mansion, to East Los Angeles to live with their estranged aunt (played by Adriana Barraza). The sisters, Nora (Camille Belle) the academic law student, and Mary (Alexa Vega) the superficial shopaholic, couldn't be more different, but the adjustments are huge for both of them.
Nora is focused on finishing up school, and her internship, and trying not to fall in love with Edward (Nicholas D'Agosto) who would inevitably take her away from her career goals. She is embracing the change and aware of her culture, but so focused on succeeding that she forgets to take care of herself at times.