(March 13, 2008 – Los Angeles, CA): Whether we want to or not, many American’s knee jerk reaction when they hear about Muslims and flying is September 11, 2001. So knowing the risks and reactions – what would make a Muslim-American man want to learn how to fly post-9/11? In the moving film, On a Wing and a Prayer, viewers meet Monem Salam, his wife Iman and their children during the course of Monem’s decision to follow his passion and attempt to secure his pilot’s license.
Monem is a financial advisor, the son of a Pakistani commercial pilot. His wife Iman’s family is Palestinian and although initially dubious about the marriage, now accepts the cultural differences. With three young children, Iman’s prankish student days are behind her. She’s happy to find time to cultivate her inner domestic diva, wisecracking about her entertaining skills and her husband’s flight plans. Monem’s “green” decision to commute by scooter, only heightens his Mr. Bean-like appearance. In the aftermath of 9/11, the flying lessons are not so easy to arrange and once underway, it’s a bumpy ride filled with technical glitches and confusion. It’s a situation that Iman doesn’t hesitate to comment on. This gently funny film follows Monem as he works towards his goal, engaging his wife, family and community in the process.
“As American citizens each and every one of us, no matter our religious affiliations, has the freedom to follow our passions,” notes On a Wing and a Prayer producer/director Max Kaiser from Handcrank Films. “Monem’s father was a commercial airline pilot for 25 years, instilling in Monem the love of flight yet society’s perceptions of Muslims made his journey a very difficult one yet it did not deter Monem from following his heart.”
In the hopes of promoting cross-cultural understanding, On a Wing and a Prayer: An American Muslim Learns to Fly takes an intimate, cinema verité-style journey into the life of Monem Salam as he attempts to fulfill a lifelong goal of obtaining a private pilot’s license. Public television viewers will learn about much more than just Monem’s flying. The film tells an emotionally uplifting story about the fears, hopes, and aspirations of a Muslim man and his family attempting to achieve their simple, yet increasingly challenging, dreams.
“It’s a very special story and when I first saw Monem and his wife in the film, I knew this was something that would resonate strongly with television audiences,” adds Alex Kronemer, executive producer at Unity Productions Foundation. “This is not just a story about a Muslim-American as he learns to fly, it is also about a young family and their everyday struggles with money, work-life balance, family, community and beyond. This is a powerful story about family, which is what makes it perfect for public television.”
On a Wing and a Prayer: An American Muslim Learns to Fly follows Monem as he enrolls in an open-minded flying school, where he soon draws the attention of the FBI, which confirms his family’s fears. Despite this, and other indignities, Monem continues his quest.
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The film delves deep into the hearts and minds of a devout Muslim family living in small-town America. They laugh, they hope and they experience heartache, victories and failures in pursuit of their American dream. These modern-day Americans cast off stereotypes and refuse to succumb to victimhood despite being denied privileges afforded most other Americans.
Co-produced in 2007 by Unity Productions Foundation and Hand Crank Films, On a Wing and a Prayer: An American Muslim Learns to Fly is presented and distributed by American Public Television through the Exchange to public television stations nationwide.