After the Sept. 11 attacks, actor Sayed Badreya and director Hesham Isaawi, Egyptian-born Muslims living and working in the United States, were inspired to make a film to help to illuminate their culture to their fellow American citizens and help curb prejudices that were intensifying during that time.
The result, AmericanEast, is a comic drama about the experiences of Arab-Americans living in post 9/11 Los Angeles that accomplishes its mission, although the movie is at its best when it is simply observing human nature with an amused, knowing eye.
The story focuses on Moustafa (Badreya), a widower and father who ignores his friends’ advice and pushes through with his plans to open an upscale Middle Eastern restaurant with his Jewish friend Sam (Tony Shalhoub, who also served as executive producer).
Meanwhile, Moustafa’s son decides he wants to become a Christian; Moustafa’s sister is trying to wriggle out of her upcoming arranged marriage; one of his employees, a part-time actor, is complaining about always getting typecast as a terrorist; and during a trip to the airport, Moustafa is subjected to racial profiling by an FBI agent (Ray Wise).
Despite some uneven performances and occasional veers into melodrama, AmericanEast succeeds at portraying a community that forms an integral part of the United States but must grapple with issues that are uniquely its own.
Cast: Sayed Badreya, Tony Shalhoub, Kais Nashif, Sarah Shahi, Anthony Azizi, Ray Wise
Director: Hesham Isaawi
Screenwriters: Hesham Isaawi, Sayed Badreya
Producers: Anant Singh, Brian Cox, Ahmad Zahra
Running time: 110 minutes. Vulgar language, adult themes. Plays at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Colony.