Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Blog

By Jennine Vari

2012 Fall Intern

A film by Rola Nashef has earned the Arab American filmmaker the Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Detroit Unleaded is a “romantic dramedy” about two cousins, Sami and Mike, who take over the family gas station in Detroit. When Sami meets Najlah, he finds that the only way they can spend time together is behind the bulletproof glass at the counter. The glass box in which Sami, and later Najhal, find themselves is a metaphorical representation for the barrier that the characters create between themselves and their community. Nashef also explains, "The theme of the film is sometimes we create our own boxes of who we are and how we interact with one another, but at times we can transcend these boxes."

Nashef’s film is unique in its portrayal of Arab Americans, as is resists the negative stereotypical media representations and illustrates everyday life by portraying Arab-Americans as “young and sexy and hip and cool and funny.” The Detroit-based filmmaker emigrated with her family from Lebanon when she was 5 and grew up in Lansing, Michigan and attended Michigan State University before working for ACCESS in Dearborn. Nashef recalls how she never saw people like herself in movies, people who shared her experiences.  She told filmmaker magazine, “Our experience as Arab Americans makes for great storytelling. We need to be on a screen somewhere.”

This film is an extension of Nashef’s original 20-minute short film by the same name which premiered back in 2007, and after a positive reaction and 2-hour long discussion with the audience, she set out to make it into a feature-length movie. The full-length version premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday. It does not currently have a distributor, therefore no date is set for theatrical release.

Watch the trailer:

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