Dearborn, Michigan is a mythical place to most Americans, known only for its high concentration of Arab Americans, most of them Muslim. As such, many consider it the equivalent of Europe’s Muslim ghettos, cut off from society at large, immune to mainstream culture, and dead set on imposing their values on others. A bracing new documentary, “Fordson,” attempts to turn all that thinking on its head.
“Fordson” is a feature length documentary that follows four high school football players from the Henry Ford-built Fordson High School in Dearborn as they prepare for a big senior year game against their traditional (more affluent) rivals. Because the school is up to 98% Muslim, and since the game is taking place during the last ten days of Ramadan, every possible religious and cultural convention gets turned on its head. To say the team, their coaches, and their fans – each in their own ways – struggle to reconcile their faith, patriotism, and Americanness is to say that they are not comfortable in their own skin. As football players recite al-Fathiha before a game starts, we see that it’s not them who have the problem – it could be us.
The film, made last year, could not have foreseen native daughter Rima Fakih capture the Miss America crown earlier this year. And Fakih’s brother, Rami Fakih, who plays on the team this season, got a benefit not available in the film – practicing football all night when eating and drinking are allowed in strangely parallel Nights of Power.
UPDATE: The producers inform us that they are still in post-production and looking at a Summer/Fall release in 2011.
Zahed Amanullah is Executive Editor of altmuslim.com