(USA, 83 min)
Dir. Ahmed Mansour
Sometimes truth can seem stranger than fiction. How’s this for an elevator pitch for a drama? “We’re going to focus on a Lutheran minister in Brooklyn, who wants to represent the Arab community in Bay Ridge by running for office in the New York city council. See, the thing is the minister is from Palestine, where he was brutally tortured by Israeli authorities for nearly two months, but he’s dealt with it and believes in American democracy. We follow this guy, Khader El-Yateem, in the weeks leading up to the primaries.”
Luckily, director Ahmed Mansour didn’t have to make a drama pitch. As a documentarian, he had two Jewish producers, Seth Morrison and Sarah Friedland, who believed in following Khader’s campaign as well as an executive producer, Paul Costello, who is a veteran involved in peace-making attempts between Palestine and Israel. (Well, Ok, maybe this also seems fictional).
Mansour’s camera is there, documenting the very charismatic and articulate El-Yateem throughout the highly charged campaign. At a Republican rally to which he’s been invited, El-Yateem encounters a very angry and dismissive member of Trump’s party who viciously attacks him. As he walks the streets, some people are clearly non-plussed by his presence. A major issue emerges: of the 40,000 Arab-Americans in Bay Ridge only about 400 have registered to vote. Part of the campaign simply becomes about getting registrations to take place—but with so much Islamophobia everywhere, it’s obvious that people are afraid to make their presence known to authorities.
Brooklyn Inshallah highlights others who are working to get El-Yateem elected, particularly the remarkable Linda Sarsour, a Muslim activist, who is a dynamic force in her own right. In the last quarter of the doc, many things change as they often do in real life, but one thing remains sure: Sarsour and others like her will get many more Arab-Americans to vote in future elections.
Mansour has made a verité film about democracy in action, a real-life drama that deserves a wide audience.
Brooklyn Inshallah screened at DOC NYC.