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”, said on 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.