Month is an American comedy-drama television series that premiered on Netflix on August 24. It features Mohammed Amer as an undocumented Palestinian refugee, Mo Najjar, who lives in Houston. The eight-episode season was co-created by Amer and Egyptian-American Ramy Youssef. The latter has its own award-winning series, ramie (2019-present) on Hulu, about a millennial American Muslim in a New Jersey neighborhood.
Mo Amer is well known as a comedian in the US, with two Netflix comedy specials (“Mo Amer: The Vagabond” and “Mo Amer: Mohammed in Texas”) to his credit.
Amer’s parents were displaced from Palestine to Kuwait, where he was born before the family was forced to flee to Texas during the 1991 Gulf War.
With an engaging and effervescent presence, Amer delivers fast, humorous and insightful material that focuses on several different circles of hell in America: the chaotic, crisis-ridden situation in the US and Houston, one of the cities largest in the country. taken as a whole, the dire situation of undocumented immigrants in general and of Palestinians and refugees from the Middle East in particular.
“It talks about second-generation statelessness…and the domino effect that comes from being stateless…Once you’re waiting to be granted asylum, you’re just out there, without a home on paper,” Amer commented in an interview. A “refugee free agent” is what he calls his status.
Unlike many current movies and TV shows that claim to capture social reality, Month it proceeds in a vivid, multifaceted, and compassionate manner, devoid of self-pity or self-conscious melancholy. In the sometimes desperate conditions, the creators see more than oppression, they see life and struggle. Month it proceeds as a series of panels, but also has a central drama. A review like this can only provide a general idea of the show, so the reader should see it for themselves.
The series is semi-autobiographical. It follows Mo Najjar, who lives with his mother Yusra (Farah Bsieso) and his brother Sameer (Omar Elba), a young man clearly on the spectrum. The three have been waiting to be granted asylum for more than 20 years, ever since Mo came to the US when he was nine years old. Estranged sister Nadia (Cherien Dabris) resides in nearby Galveston with her son and her Canadian husband, through whom she obtained legal status.
Other central characters include Mo’s Latina girlfriend Maria (Teresa Ruiz) and his childhood friend Nick (Tobe Nwigwe), a Nigerian-American.
At the beginning of the series, Mo loses his job at a cell phone store. Trilingual (also in real life) and tech savvy, he is an asset to the business. But his boss fires him for fear of an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raid. “It’s not the first time ICE has put me out of a job,” Mo complains. Survival now means pulling fake luxury goods out of the trunk of his car. His quick salesmanship brings in hundreds of dollars from cheap knock-offs.
The relationship with the Catholic Maria is complicated by Yusra’s disgust at not being a Muslim. Always insisting to her family that Maria is about to convert to Islam, Mo struggles to find cultural points of convergence, such as comparing a nun’s habit to a hijab.
Later in that same episode, Mo is at a grocery store buying cat food for Sameer, whose feline companion helps him get by. “Would you like to try some chocolate hummus?” asks a worker handing out free samples. Appalled, Mo replies, “Did you say chocolate hummus? You just insulted my grandmother. Yes. To hell with your lineage. To hell with your culture.” “I am sorry [I’m sorry]”, replies the store employee, apologizing, “I did not know that the hummus was Mexican”.
The ruffled feathers smooth as Mo offers her some of her mother’s homemade olive oil, which she carries around in a small bottle like holy water.
When Mo is injured during a store shooting, he refuses to be taken to the hospital due to lack of insurance, telling his mother, “I was shot…[shootings in the US are] crazy.”
(In an interview with VultureAmer talks about the incident in Month: “But I absolutely wanted that there. It’s such a unique thing that a refugee ends up in America and then gets shot in Texas, right? Run away from war for that. And frankly, it happened to someone from our town who ended up in Houston, Texas who worked at a convenience store and unfortunately died. It wasn’t a mass shooting, but he was killed. God have mercy on his soul. It was deeply personal to me. I was worried about so many different implications”).
Periodic flashbacks including scenes of the terrified family at checkpoints in the Middle East and the Najjar family’s harrowing separation in Kuwait heighten the tension and create a kind of historical context for the comedy-drama.
Frequently mistaken for “Mexican” or “Pakistani,” Mo, upon identifying himself as Palestinian to a Texan and hearing “Shalom” in response, tersely replies, “Yeah, it’s a real brand problem.” At another point, he describes an arcade game to his friends: “It’s like throwing stones, Palestinians should be the best at this.”
Card-playing intervals in an Arab cafe usually involve a Jewish American (Alan Rosenberg) and some of Mo’s boisterous relatives, one of whom marries a very large, very blonde Texas woman. A discussion of a card game focuses on the 1967 war that exiled “millions of Palestinians.”
An atmosphere of emotional anxiety is almost always present. Mo argues at one point: “Never tell someone to relax when they’re in a stressful situation. It never works, when has shouting in Arabic calmed someone down?
The lines are smart and sharp throughout. In one scene, a store clerk’s tasting of Yusra’s olive oil leads to the scathing comment, “This is the oil we should have invaded Iraq for.”
(In his TV special, Muhammad in Texas , the comedian commented on the “three trillion dollars” that “appeared” in the COVID crisis amid the danger of financial collapse: “We are going to funnel it into the Ponzi scheme that is the stock market. Because the stock market is a direct reflection of American hearts everywhere. … It’s shooting! … We are home … How is this going? … Homelessness is at an all time high … Fifty million people unemployed … How does this arrow keep going up?”
And more: “Who do you vote for? Red or blue?” he asks. “You are all gangsters. I am with the people. He will always be with the people. … They are trying to separate us”).
One of Mo’s job search efforts involves applying to a strip joint. Offering him a job, the seedy club owner says, “You wouldn’t be the first illegal, but you would be the first Arab.” “I’m glad I was able to break that glass ceiling for you,” Mo replies.
In a scathing sequence, Maria approaches a wealthy former classmate and her “cryptocurrency” complacent husband for a business loan. What emanates from the couple’s “we want to give back” liberalism is an unpleasant condescension and arrogant stupidity.
Finally, Mo gets a job in an olive grove run by a white Texan who plays the violin. He is now “a refugee picking olives with immigrants.”
The family’s journey through the asylum system is comically painful and surreal. His claim is based on the fact that Mo’s father, now deceased, had been tortured. The Najjars’ incompetent and self-serving lawyer is quick to accept money to no avail. He waits for the business because she is Palestinian and a family acquaintance. In a recurring joke, she is never able to locate Sameer’s citizenship application. “Okay, we’ll just photocopy yours and change the name,” she tells Mo.
To everyone’s surprise, Mo replaces her with a Jewish immigration attorney, Lizzie Horowitz (Lee Eddy), who overcomes numerous obstacles and a lot of callous red tape to bring the Najjars’ case before a judge.
“We needed to highlight how messy the immigration system really is,” Amer, whose real-life immigration attorney he consulted on the show, says in an interview. “You would think that in a technologically advanced world that would not be the case.”
The wall separating Texas and Mexico is given treatment in the series, as Mo inadvertently finds himself south of the border (“I deported myself”) at the hands of coyotes, profiting from the nightmare of the undocumented.
Towards MonthThe season finale of ‘s, the protagonist summarizes: his family was expelled from Haifa, Palestine by the Israelis; there have been “80 years of bombs. Bullets and tear gas. Hell, they built a wall separating families…separating people from their own land.”
In the Vulture interview, Amer points out that “walls have never worked. We’re trying to build one now between Texas and Mexico… Having borders to understand someone else’s plight, trying to separate yourself from them, is not going to work. What you resist will persist. Once he has put up a wall, he is not going to solve his problems. It will only make things worse. Creating more separation is not the answer, and creating more understanding is.” Amer refers to the “anger and emotions [that followed] what happened last year in Sheikh Jarrah.”
(In May 2021, the Jerusalem District Court ordered several Palestinian families living in the occupied Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem to permanently leave their homes so that Jewish settlers could move out of the occupied neighborhood and during worship services.) Ramadan prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.)
There is an element of retribution in the story. The irony of this suitably penetrating series is that an American-Palestinian is now in a position to bring elements of the Middle East’s tragic encounter with American imperialism to a mass audience. Despite countless bombs and relentless propaganda aimed at suppressing the truth, Month it is attractive to young Americans in particular, who are also becoming radicalized.
By the way, Month it also debunks various stereotypes about “Arab terrorists and fanatics.” At the same time, the humor of the series is directed against the wealthy elite (“nothing is enough for the rich”). Amer’s history as a Palestinian makes him acutely aware that the official version of America’s “forever” wars in the Middle East is a pack of lies, as is the nonsense that Texas is nothing more than the land of the “rednecks”.
Indeed, the series shows that in Alief, Houston’s “beloved” working-class suburb of Amer, cultural fluidity finds expression in many aspects of life, not the least of which is the fact that some 80 languages are spoken there. By showing the “planes, trains and cars of a refugee”, as he put it Varietyand especially her family’s agonizing story, she wanted to break the image that Texas is “a group of people who just hang out, they’re racist!… It’s nice to change that cognitive framework and show people how diverse it is.” Houston and how much it has to offer.” The same can be said for MonthIt is the presentation of the human condition as a whole.