Arab-American rom-com wins Discovery Award at TIFF
Debut-feature filmmaker Rola Nashef has just been honoured with the first ever Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award for her film Detroit Unleaded (now playing at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Discovery programme) and has received a $10,000 prize, at an awards ceremony at Brant House.
The final selection for the award was made by the Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award jury, which included critically acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Ruba Nadda, whose film Inescapable is currently playing at the festival. Inescapable features Alexander Siddig, Joshua Jackson and Marisa Tomei, in a tense thriller about a father whose daughter disappears in Damascus, forcing him to return to the country he tried to leave behind three decades before, in order to get her back. Ruba told me the kernel of the story idea came from her father, who instead of saying "have a good trip" used to say "don't go missing--I don't want to have to come looking for you."
Rola Nashed's award winning film Detroit Unleaded was nine years in the making. She told me that it took two years and $20,000 dollars to produce her original short film, but when it gained so much attention after its 2007 release, including admittance to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, she knew there was more story to tell. After a long uphill battle to finance a feature, Rola has produced what is being labeled the first "Arab-American romantic comedy," a label she does not shy away from.
TIFF's press release describes Detroit Unleaded as "an ambitious Lebanese-American youth forced to take over his family's gas station after his father's death, in [a] spirited and often hilarious coming-of-age tale." Sounds like the premise of a comedy.
"The film is not about identity issues or 9/11" Rola said. "It's about young sexy hip cool Arab Americans, and there's romance of course." She added, blushing a bit, but in my opinion, it's refreshing to see someone finally telling stories that steer away from expected Hollywood stereotypes. Rola also says that her leading cast will be at the Tuesday Q&A, so consider that a great opportunity to get interactive with a bold new filmmaker.