Heritage Month: Arab Americans in Filmmaking
BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer
The names of many Arab American film actors such as Salma Hayek, Tony Shalhoub, and Vince Vaughn are well known and have been making Arab Americans proud for years. However, Arab Americans have been making an impact on the other side of the camera, too.
Arab American directors, writers, producers, and cinematographers have been drawing people to theaters for decades. One of the most notable film producers in the country is Arab American Mario Kassar who founded Carolco – an independent film production company that made Terminator 2, Total Recall, Basic Instinct and the first three Rambo films. Kassar has been nominated for twelve Oscars and has contributed to the generation of millions of dollars in the film industry.
Another producer some may not know is Tom Shadyac who started as a joke writer for Bob Hope and worked his way up to being executive producer of popular films, such as Bruce Almighty, Patch Adams, and Accepted. Shadyac joins Moustapha Akkad, producer of the Halloween movies, as producers who have created cult-classic films that transcend time in American society.
Classic films with strong female roles, such as Thelma and Louise and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood also have an Arab American to thank for their box office success. Writer Callie Khouri is not only credited with writing these two films, but for forging feminism on screen and in society.
In addition, many Arab Americans have contributed to independent and documentary films, as well. However, the above mainstream productions are examples of how Arab Americans have played a role in shaping film industry standards and contributing to pop culture references that can bring people of all backgrounds together.