Namour Shines Light on American Assimilation
L.A. Director screens cultural film at Cal State LA
April 7, 2017
Filed under Arts
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For the city of Los Angeles, the emphasis on diversity and portrayal of culture has long been a source of creative movement. Such creatives as Ava Duvernay have propelled ethnic diversity and focus on a shifting mainstream audience that is finally correctly and accurately depicting minorities and races that have never seen Hollywood spotlights. Most recently, the film Namour by director Heidi Saman, picked up by Duvernay’s “Array Studios,” depicts the life of a modern Muslim man who maneuvers post-college life in a setting that is both unapologetic and straightforward.
For Heidi Saman, creating a film that accurately depicts the dynamic life that individuals experience in the world today, choosing a Muslim cast seemed natural and organic in parallel to the struggle of fitting in and homogenizing in U.S. culture. Specifically, Saman noted that Namour is, “a story about a Muslim man who experiences the many dynamics and different components that make up an individual’s life today.”
In the film, the main character, Steven, a first generation Egyptian-American, is a struggling LA resident who spends the majority of his days balancing his life as a valet for a high-end restaurant, and as a son and brother alongside his dysfunctional and oddly distant family. By depicting Steven’s day-to-day interactions with other individuals, including his own family members, it quickly becomes evident that Steven is vastly different and disconnected from the rest of his immediate bubble of influence and familiarity.
As Saman stated, “Steven’s life represents the many different influences and characteristics that make up an individual’s life today.”
For people like Steven, especially those that make up a minority that is both underrepresented and misunderstood in the changing dynamic of the U.S.’s fabric, the importance of properly displaying and portraying the struggle of fitting-in hits home for many.
Saman, who is an Egyptian-American himself, seems like the perfect storyteller for this situation, as he understands the key points that create Steven’s character and situation.
For example, as Steven’s sister moves from traditional values to those of a modern counterpart, he notices himself stuck in a sense of consistent dilemma at trying to fit into the country’s youngest and most relevant culture to his own. Even when attending parties that he is invited to alongside friends, Steven cannot escape the demons that trap him in his own mind, specifically those of insignificance and inability to relate. Ultimately this prevents Steven from making the very connections that he so desperately wishes to make.
The message of Namour, as it stands, is understanding the complexity of balancing and effectively managing the multiple expectations that come with jobs, friendships, and even family. Regardless of the culture and circumstances that uniquely depict and differentiate each individual, the constant still remains- old fashioned traditions will tend to clash and create strain on individuals that grow alongside newfound values and cultures that define the U.S. today.
Ultimately, as Saman demonstrated in Namour, becoming assimilated in modern culture can often result in creating a gap between traditional values and the expectations of disconnection that modernity tends to promote. However, for Steven, homogeneity is not the ultimate goal, as he witnesses others that have done just that are even more miserable than he is. For him, finding his place in L.A. means finding a balance between old and new, and more importantly between good and bad. Through his decisions of where he works, who he spends time with, and where he visits, Steven ultimately creates a reality for himself that is not easy by any means, but is in the direction of happiness in the long run.
Namour, a film that follows powerful footsteps of production company Array’s founder, Ava Duvernay, continues on the path of self-discovery and understanding in a culture that is shifting every day. For Saman, depicting Steven alongside the individuals that define and influence him, the audience can truly understand the dynamics that make up his difficult, but regardless, important life.