About this project
What is NAMOUR?
NAMOUR is a feature length film that tells the story of Steven Bassem, a young man going nowhere fast, literally. His job as a valet driver for a fashionable restaurant brings him into regular contact with Los Angeles' moneyed elite and their very expensive automobiles, but Steven can't shake the feeling that his temporary gig has somehow become permanent -- and what he took for a post-college rut is turning into his future.
As friends and lovers drift away and his close-knit Arab American family begins to fall apart, Steven begins to act out the drama of his permanent adolescence in ways that surprise even him.
A sparse and stylized homage to Los Angeles, NAMOUR is about the decisions we make when our responsibilities begin to weigh down our convictions -- and why life can feel like it's passing us by.
Basically, NAMOUR is your favorite film that hasn't been made yet.
Why I'm making NAMOUR
I began writing the script in the aftermath of the 2008 economic recession, as a way of making sense of what I saw happening all around me. Coworkers were getting laid off, my neighbors were losing their homes and my peers were tightening their budgets, fearing that it would get worse.
First and foremost, people were afraid - but I noticed something else. The recession was changing how we thought about ourselves and about the futures we thought we would have. I wrote NAMOUR to try and understand what the "American Dream" means in 2013 and how that kind of financial fear could drive someone to do some pretty uncharacteristic things.
Oh, so Steven's Arab.
Several financiers I reached out to rejected NAMOUR because it didn't abide by some pretty stereotypical stories about immigrants in general or Arabs, in particular. It seems we are comfortable with stories about terrorism, family tales about planning a lavish wedding (with intermittent shenanigans along the way), and about oppressed women, but not much else.
I think that there are important stories yet to be told about terrorism and about immigrant children caught between two worlds but I also believe that film audiences are ready to move beyond these tropes.
I love films that possess the mark of a filmmaker's voice and visual style and NAMOUR reflects a story and mood that is very personal to me, my life, and where I'm from.
Your support will bring NAMOUR to life
The script for NAMOUR is written. It was a finalist at this year's Sundance Screenwriters Lab and was recently selected for the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Intensive. NAMOUR was selected for the Berlin Film Festival's Talents Program, and I was awarded the prestigious Leeway Transformation Award.
Now, it's time to make the film. My first step towards doing this: this Kickstarter campaign. If I am able to make my goal of $25,000, this will provide half of what we'll need to get the film made next year. With your help, we'll be able to pay for equipment rental, lighting, sound, props, costumes, and location fees.
Support a film that is truly independent
For two years, I've been meeting with financing producers, most of whom turned down NAMOUR because they didn't think there was an audience for an independent film that features Arab-Americans. Other producers told me that they couldn't back a film that had Arab-Americans as the leads because they weren't "likeable" enough for audiences.
One producer told me that I should turn the script into something more palatable for audiences - like a family drama or romantic comedy with a wedding (this is starting to sound familiar, isn't it?).
The one that hurt the most was when a potential investor mentioned that I should include a theme about terrorism, because that would be an appealing and recognizable topic for an Arab-American lead character.
These investors wanted me to reiterate and reinforce Arab stereotypes and story lines that were safe, "market-approved," and not at all connected to the story I wanted to tell. Their comments convinced me that the only way to make my film the way I wanted to make it would be through truly independent means -- which is why I'm reaching out to you with this Kickstarter campaign.
Help me prove those producers wrong. Let's send the message that there is an audience for well-told, unique stories that feature people of color in dynamic and non-stereotypical roles. Any donation will help. I will only receive the funds from this campaign if I reach my Kickstarter goal. So any amount you can give will get me that much closer to my goal.
As Federico Fellini, one of my favorite filmmakers, once said: "There are no ideal conditions for the making of a film." Filmmaking is without question a risky business, so how can you be sure I'll complete NAMOUR?
I have a proven track record of turning my scripts into films. My previous short film, The Maid (il Shaghala in Arabic), which I wrote and directed, was shot in Cairo, Egypt, received the Princess Grace Honorarium Award and was selected to premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. It played at festivals worldwide including Dubai, Slamdance, and IndieMemphis. My second short film, Pears, received the Panavision Equipment Grant Award, screened at festivals and galleries around the globe (including Milan, Tokyo, and Toronto) and garnered me the prestigious Jack G. Shaheen Mass Communications Scholarship Award.
I've been a filmmaker for 10 years and an associate producer at National Public Radio's Fresh Air with Terry Gross for 3 years. What these two jobs have taught me is that --
1) Your team is everything. I've been blessed to work with my cinematographer and very good friend, Dawn Chenette, for every single film I've ever made. For NAMOUR, I plan to team up with her and a few friends of mine who I've made short films with in the past.
2) Troubleshooting is the name of the game. The challenges that come with producing a daily radio show or a film are many, but anticipating them is half the battle.
Every setback is an opportunity to take a moment and re-assess the final product and I promise to do that as I take NAMOUR from script to screen. But I need your help.
Come on. Let's do this!
$40 -- Leather NAMOUR Keychain designed by Perri Dotson
Our very own keychain! Hand stamped on 8 oz leather and held together by heavy duty nickel hardware, this keychain is meant to last a lifetime. Measures approx. 5 inches in length, 1/2 inches in width.
$120 -- 2G Wood Flash Drive designed by Son of a Sailor Supply
You can store your data with this wooden flash drive by Son of a Sailor Supply, who are handpainting the drive in a customized color just for NAMOUR! On the drive, we'll place production stills from the film set of NAMOUR as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes extras.
Risks and challenges
Without having shot a frame of the film, NAMOUR is connecting to people. And when setbacks come (and they no doubt will), it's vital to remember that a community of artists and supporters have already formed around it. Your support is making that community grow and I'm so grateful for it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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