For Norwegian filmmaker Line Halvorsen, the case of Sami Al-Arian is about freedom of speech and about the U.S. government’s efforts to silence a tireless voice for human rights.

It is about post-Sept. 11 hysteria and the persecution of a Muslim, as well as the emotionally grinding devastation the prosecution brought to the Al-Arian family.

It is not about the evidence presented in a complex, five-month trial in U.S. District Court two years ago.

Halvorsen’s documentary, “USA vs Al-Arian,” has won accolades and awards. The producers say it was picked best film at the Norwegian Documentary Film Festival and the New Orleans International Human Rights Festival. The Al-Arians are celebrities in Norway as a result of the film.

The Council on American Islamic Relations is co-sponsoring a showing of the film, which does not yet have a U.S. distributor, at the Tampa Theatre Wednesday night.

Monday, Halvorsen showed the film to local reporters at the Tampa office of CAIR.

Halvorsen said she met Nahla Al-Arian, Sami Al-Arian’s wife, at a showing of her last film, about the plight of Palestinian children.

Halvorsen was staying with family in Lakeland during the trial, and she said she persuaded Nahla Al-Arian to let her shoot a documentary from the family’s perspective. “They’ve been very brave, very open,” she said.

The film portrays the family’s intimate moments and the toll the prosecution and separation had on them. Scenes include Nahla Al-Arian’s emotional breakdown during an argument with her husband over a seemingly insignificant issue and her quiet, prayerful despair when she doesn’t know what is going to happen next. The Al-Arian children are shown in happier times with their father and then navigating the security and bureaucracy they must pass through to visit their father.


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