Their documentary, “Becoming Mighty,” is one of five films about Dearborn's Arab American communities produced by students in Assistant Professor Adam Sekuler’s “Media Production for the Metropolitan Community” course.
The “Arab American Perspectives: Filmic Visions of Dearborn” documentary showcase — the culmination of a semester-long project that paired student filmmakers with community members to capture the essence of life in Dearborn — will take place at 7 p.m. Dec. 14. at the Arab American National Museum, 13624 Michigan Ave, in Dearborn.
Want to attend? Check out this website, RSVP here or contact Adam Sekuler.
The short films – the longest are 15 minutes – document Arab American life in Dearborn and, in addition to Mighty’s story, feature a generations-old halal butcher, a podcasting empire and a beloved local coffee house.
“Recent events have underscored how vital it is to share authentic stories of Arab America, and there is no better place to do that than Dearborn,” Sekuler said. “We think audiences will come away from these films feeling even closer to their neighbors and their community.”
Guided by metro Detroit-based filmmaker Moussa El Moussa, who served as the course’s filmmaker-in-residence, students honed their skills and navigated the creative process, ensuring the films authentically reflected the narratives of Dearborn’s Arab American community.
“This course is oriented around interacting with Arabs in the community. I am an Arab in the community and I wanted students to know there isn’t any question you can’t ask me — ask me about being Arab, about being a filmmaker, about being a person,” El Moussa said. “These students have been learning more than technical and artistic lessons. They also are learning about humanity in themselves and in others through these connections. I’m so inspired by them, their tenacity, their vulnerability and their devotion.”
Sekuler, in partnership with the Center for Arab American Studies, also brought four renowned Arab American filmmakers to the UM-Dearborn campus and the AANM. Usama Alshaibi, Jude Chehab, Sarra Idris and Dearborn native Mike Mosallam, creator of the critically acclaimed TLC series “All-American Muslim,” all consulted with the students about their films, in addition to screening and discussing their own work.
JuMP senior Michael Beard said the filmmakers described their processes, shareds their work and guided students on ways to visually portray a story. They even mentored students on the finer details. For example, Beard’s film features Ronnie Berry and his 60-year-old butcher shop, Ronnie’s Halal Meats. When Beard and his group pitched their idea, visiting filmmaker Mosallam asked a seemingly simple question: “How are you going to make raw meat look good?”
Beard said that question helped their group think about how they’d frame the shots and realize the importance of capturing active movement. They shot b-roll of lamb sizzling on the grill, employees stocking the counter, Berry handing packages to customers and more. “It helped us know what shots to get the next time we went to the shop,” Beard said. “The advice we’ve gotten in this class is amazing because it’s both big picture and detail-oriented — everyone taught us something new. The filmmakers, Adam and Moussa are passionate about their craft. I’m so glad that I took this class. If you have the chance to take a class with Adam in the future, do it.”