What's the story?
Envision archival footage of Syria’s national wrestling champion pinning his opponent to the mat. Next, imagine the cheers of the crowd giving way to a voiceover of the champion reminiscing about his days in the arena. Then picture the camera cutting to the wrestler’s interview in Jordan’s Za'atari refugee camp. This would be the introduction of a short (8-12 minute) biopic of Mohammed al Krad.
After an eminent career in wrestling, Krad became the head coach of Syria’s national team. But soon after Krad’s tenure began, President Bashar-Al Asad asked for his help in suppressing insurgent political groups. However, Krad stood with the rebels. Guided by the strength of both his political and moral convictions, he resolved to escape the country with his wife and child rather than risk imprisonment.
Still committed to coaching, Krad now runs a sports program for youth between the ages of 12 and 17 at the refugee camp to which he escaped. Even though circumstance forced Krad into a new country, it could not rid him of his passion. Now more than ever, he is dedicated to his role as mentor and coach because, as he said, “I am aware of how important I am to these kids and what a difference I am making in their lives. They will be my future. When we go back to Syria one day, they will be my team.” This documentary will chronicle the triumphs and travails of Krad, who, wherever he is, remains a champion.
How did this all come together?
I, Dan Levitt, initially learned about the story because my producer, Linda Mason, wrote an article for the Huffington Post about Mohammed when she was acting chairwoman of the international aid organization Mercy Corps (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-groundtruth-project/heroes-and-hope-amid-desp_b_6958448.html). The article moved me deeply and I felt driven to meet Mohammed and tell his story in documentary form. Now I am working closely with Linda and Mercy Corps staff at the camp to organize the filming a short documentary about Mohammed early this October. One of my film professors from Colorado College, Clay Haskell has agreed to fly over to Jordan with me to help shoot the documentary. I feel honored to be able to learn from and collaborate with a professor of his talent.
What is the value of this documentary?
I think this documentary is worthwhile because it would help combat growing Islamophobia. Since 9/11 Western prejudice against Muslims has ballooned to outsize proportions. (http://www.gallup.com/poll/157082/islamophobia-understanding-anti-muslim-sentiment-west.aspx). Though a litany of causes have likely led to this prejudice, aggressive portrayals of Muslims in the mainstream media are surely a contributing factor. That’s why making and distributing a documentary that features a considerate, relatable and ethical Muslim is so crucial—it complicates the pervasive narrative that all Muslims are terrorists.
Meet the team:
Dan Levitt, (Director, Editor, Producer) -
Dan spent his first semester of college backpacking in the Himalayas and now studies philosophy, political-science and film at Colorado College. He also works as a peer tutor at the Ruth Barton Writing Center and performs sketch comedy. In his first foray into film, he shot and edited an award-winning doc that was screened at the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival and earned him an internship at Rocky Mountain PBS. He comes from Boston and values the simple things in life: good stories, good music, and good friends.
Here's a link to said doc: https://vimeo.com/101756120
Clay Haskell (Director of Photography, Creative Director) -
Clay Haskell is director, producer, and cinematographer of the documentary feature Mississippi Messiah, about civil rights icon and iconoclast James Meredith, which was selected for the Independent Filmmaker Project's Spotlight on Documentaries, held at Lincoln Center, in 2012. He co-produced and shot the documentary feature The Hollywood Complex, which premiered at Hot Docs in 2011 and has aired worldwide, including on Channel 4 in the UK, ARTE in France and Germany, and Showtime in the US. He shot and directed the award-winning short film The Chair and the short documentary Ascent to Mount Angel, which aired on Oregon PBS, and he documented the handover of Hong Kong in photographs as one of the first Fulbright Fellows to China. Haskell’s feature screenplays include Happy Trails, a story of the Tucson Boys Chorus; The Wrong Brothers, a finalist for the Chesterfield Writer’s Film Project optioned by Pink Slip Pictures; and Moondance, optioned by DeMann Entertainment. He won a Sloan Fellowship for his screenplay The Virtue of Reality. A graduate of the American Film Institute, Clay works as a writer, photographer, cinematographer, and motion graphics artist when not teaching filmmaking.
Linda Mason (Producer) -
Ms. Mason is Leader in Residence at the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School at Harvard University. She also serves as Chair of the Global Leadership Council for Mercy Corps, a $450m international relief and development agency playing a major role in crisis areas around the world including Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, DRC, South Sudan, and Nigeria among others. Ms. Mason travels extensively to crisis areas around the world and has written and spoken extensively on humanitarian issues. Earlier in her career she worked in Africa and Southeast Asia running emergency relief operations for CARE and Save the Children. She is co-author of Rice, Rivalry, and Politics – Managing Cambodian Relief, published by University of Notre Dame Press. Ms. Mason and her husband, Roger Brown, created and built Bright Horizons, the world’s largest worksite childcare organization now operating over 800 childcare centers and employing 25,000 people. The organization has been selected, for the past 16 years, as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” by Fortune magazine. They also co-founded Horizons for Homeless Children, an organization providing childcare and related services to homeless children and their parents.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge we face will be adjusting quickly to life in the refugee camp upon our arrival. Luckily, we have had an outpouring of support from our friends at Mercy Corps. They have helped provide us with a driver, translator, and security detail. We're confident our trip will run smoothly and that we'll leave with some amazing footage.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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