AmericanEast Reveals Arab Paranoia

Escaping Hollywood's stereotypical gun-totting terrorist Arabs, a new movie is revealing the real life of US Arabs in post 9/11 America.

AmericanEast Reveals Arab Paranoia

Escaping Hollywood's stereotypical gun-totting terrorist Arabs, a new movie is revealing the real life and struggle of American Arabs in post 9/11 America and challenge the depiction of Middle Easterners in Hollywood.

"We wanted a story about a struggling immigrant like the Poles or Irish generations ago," Hesham Issawi, director of the new movie "AmericanEast", told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, December 23.

"It's an honest movie about how we feel," added the Egyptian-born director and script writer.

The main characters of his the 110-minute film feature the aspects of life for people of Arab origin living in the US.

Lightly bearded Mustafa is a widowed Egyptian immigrant and the owner of Habibi café, a popular resort for Middle Eastern Los Angelenos.

Trouble begins when the FBI investigates his donations to an Islamic charity back in Egypt.

This infects other parts of his life: a restaurant venture with his Jewish partner, Sam (played by famed Lebanese-origin actor Tony Shalhoub); a troubled teenage son torn between his American and Arab-Muslim identity; the refusal of his sister to marry a visiting Egyptian cousin; and an unsympathetic ear for his cab-driving actor friend Omar, who is frustrated in his typecast roles as a terrorist.

Continuously playing in the background of the drama are TV news about unfolding terrorist plots, stories about cultural insults and views of Arabs after the 9/11 attacks.

According to the national census in 2000, there are about 1.3 million people from Arab ancestry in the US.

A later private research by the Arab American Institute and Zogby International suggest a population that exceeds 3 million.


Issawi, the director and script writer, says the lack of typical Arab bad-guys in his movie has put bumps in its road.

He raised the coin for the $1.2 million project independently via US-based shingles Distant Horizon and Zahra Entertainment, an Arab-American production company making its feature debut with "AmericanEast."

The film premiered at the Dubai Film Festival, held on December 9-16, marking the end of a three-year-long process to get up unto the big screen.

Though tackling a community that is in the spotlight ever since 9/11, the film failed to find a welcoming US distributor.

Shalhoub recently noted that low-budget movies like "AmericanEast" rarely make it into the American heartland these days.

"How do you market a movie about Arabs?" asked Issawi, known for the award-winning short movie "T for Terrorist".

"Nobody likes us after 9/11," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Associating Muslims and Arabs with terrorism has become the norm in post 9/11 Western media.

In Hollywood, the world's cinema industry hub, Arabs usually play the stereotypical blood-thirst terrorists or the uncivilized and greedy.

Issawi contends the main goal of his movie is to reveal the Arab paranoia persisting in American society.

"Arabs in America are successful, they're doing pretty well. They understand the price of freedom," he notes.

"But they know they're being watched. If four or five Arab guys walk through an airport, people stop and say, 'Who are they?'

"It's American paranoia."


Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Aralık 2007, 19:03