Don't Miss: Shattering Stereotypes

Richard Chagoury and Sayed Badreya in 'American East.' i i

Richard Chagoury, left, and Sayed Badreya in American East. Satir Gonalez hide caption

itoggle caption Satir Gonalez
Richard Chagoury and Sayed Badreya in 'American East.'

Richard Chagoury, left, and Sayed Badreya in American East.

Satir Gonalez

Renee Montagne has a nice interview this morning on Morning Edition with actor Sayed Badreya and director Hesham Issawi, two Arab Americans who want to use the movies to change Americans' views of Muslims. What really struck me was Issawi's comment that, when he was growing up in Egypt, he got many of his impressions of America from the TV series Dallas. He says the streets of Cairo would be empty when it aired on Thursday nights. And who shot the show's lead character, J.R. Ewing, was a major topic of discussion at the dinner table.

A producer here at NPR once told me that Dallas was also a big hit in her native Kenya. That's pretty distressing if you ask me. J.R. Ewing and his dysfunctional oil-rich family had about as much to do with my middle-class Catholic life in northern New Jersey as it did with those in Egypt and Kenya. It's just those kinds of stereotypes that Badreya and Issawi hope to shatter, but about Muslims. For decades, Badreya played Arab bad guys — terrorists, hijackers, etc. Their new movie, American East, is about a Muslim American who opens a Middle Eastern restaurant with a Jewish friend, and who has to confront all the complexities of a post Sept. 11 life.

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