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Chicago Rolls Out Red Carpet for Arab Film
By RAY HANANIA — Chicago welcomed the premiere June 30 of the new movie short “Chicago Mirage,” the story of an Arab dentist who was arrested after Sept. 11, 2001 and released after serving 10 years in prison to contemplate a choice between pursuing a life of crime or using his influence to help his community.
The film was the brainchild of Nemer Ziyad, owner of Ziyad Brothers Importing, who with the help of boxing promoter Wasfi Tolaymat raised more than $55,000 to shoot and produce the 35 minute drama.
Ziyad and Tolaymat were among the many locaal actors who played characters in the film that told the story of a successful Arab dentist and community leader who was dragged out of his dentist office in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorism because of his Arab heritage.
Sent to prison in Joliet, Dr. Mustapha Mussa (played by Hollywood actor Sayed Badreya) was confronted by a drug dealer who threatened to kill him as an act of patriotism. But in prison, Mussa killed the drug dealer and established his reputation as a tough guy whose name became the symbol of tough power in the community.
After serving 10 years, Mussa is released to his wife and now 10-year-old son, who was born while he began his prison sentence. The drama takes the audience through the nightmare memories of prison life, the challenges of returning to a wife and son he had never seen, and a community which pulled at him from both sides.
The film premiere drew more than 800 people from Chicago’s American Arab community, including former state Sen. Jim DeLeo, now a partner in a new Chicago movie production endeavor with a Toronto movie company that purchased the long abandoned 50 acre Ryserson Steel plant in Chicago.
Ziyad told the audience after the showing of the film that he and Tolaymat, along with Badreya, would try to produce a full length film to be shot in Chicago and the Middle East.
“This is just the beginning. We’re going to tell the story of American Arabs in a dramatic way that appeals to all audiences,” said Ziyad, who played a community leader who offered the released convict, Mustapha, a chance to work towards the betterment of the American Arab community. Ziyad was joined by local actor Merik Tadros, who plays his son. The two offered a believable performance as community leaders urging Mustapha to turn away from crime.
Tolaymat played one of the region’s toughest and most successful drug dealers, who also offered Mustapha a partnership to expand the business. Tolymat, who owns the prestigious Chicago Fight Clubs Promotion LLC with his wife, Cynthia, offered a phenomenal acting performance as the smart underworld crime lord.
The film was shot in various locations throughout Chicago including at the al-Bawadi Restaurant in Bridgeview, alHambra Palace in the Chicago’s West Loop, and in the home of local doctor whose son Charles Zayad played the 10-year-old boy that Mustapha had not seen. Holanda Demeliotz played Mustapha’s wife.
“We had a lot of fun making the movie and I know this will help us open the door to possibly making a full length Hollywood film,” said Tolymat after the showing.
Also in the film were: David, played by David Dukum; Tony by Tony Elayyan; Radio Announcer by Ray Hanania (myself); Nightclub Singer by Doris Farhat; Inmate by Boban Simic; Al Bawadi Owner by restaurant owner Abu Faris; Crooked Cop by Jay Abed; FBI Agent #1 by Tawfiq Salem; FBI Agent #2 by Peter Azar; Police Officer #1 by Robert Young; Police Officer #2 by Jim Nieciecki; Loud Female Patron by Inaam Bisharat; Mustafa’s Friend by Leonard Goldberg; Hamada’s Friends’ Mom by Sana Zayed; Hamada’s Friends Marissa Zayed and Anthony Zayed; Boxing Champ by Antonio Canas; Boxing Trainer by Fernando Hernandez; Dental Assistant by Mary Rahmoun; Receptionist by Alex Kitner; Dental Partner by Dr. Joseph Akikhar; and Dental Patient and film producer Joann Fakhouri.
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Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com