With ISIS dominating the headlines with their vicious, Dark Age brand of extremism, arguments over "boots on the ground" and unhinged declarations about all of us all getting "killed back here at home!" by supposed Serious People talking about running for president (God Help Us) from their influential permanent perches on our increasingly Kardashian-esque Sunday shows.
With a "reconstruction" conference over how to physically rebuild Gaza, after a summer of war that included loose talk by an Israeli politician of a Palestinian genocide, as well as a tide of anti-Semitism unleashed from its latent state to reveal its brutality across large swaths of Europe.
There could be no better time for calls for civility and tolerance, acceptance of others and mutual understanding. As is often the case, we get this in the form of culture, and in this case in the form of an inspiring and gripping film about an Algerian suicide bomber who comes to the United States, bent on avenging the killing of his parents when he was a small child.
The film, The Algerian, was Executive-Produced, Directed and Written by Giovanni Zelko, who also was Editor, Distant Location Cinematographer and has a supporting role in the film (phew... the man has skills). It features breakout actor Ben Youcef (Co-Executive Producer/Co-Story) and Harry Lennix, currently starring in NBC's The Blacklist with James Spader, and a veteran of hit films such as The Matrix Revolutions, State of Play and Man of Steel.
In this film, Ali, the protagonist played by Youcef, arrives in Los Angeles with a plan to detonate a nuclear bomb his extremist group has attained. He has a hardened heart and an iron will, made clear by his workouts each and every day. But something happens. Ali, comes into contact for the first time with those who have been stereotyped to him, an American soldier named Patrick (Josh Pence), a young African-American woman who has had to be unchaste to survive (Candice Coke), a Jewish co-ed (Tara Holt) at the university where he is studying and a peaceful Imam, played by Lennix. Ali learns that people are not so different, each with their own struggles and passions not so different from his, not just cardboard cut-outs as they had been to him before.
It is at this point this international political thriller takes off, right up to the final heart-pounding moments when you wonder, will he, or won't he?
The movie has already been a hit on the film festival circuit, as an official selection for the Montreal World Film Festival, The New York City SOHO International Film Festival and New York City Independent Film Festival, with numerous awards such as Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Cinematography (Los Angeles Downtown Film Festival), Best Thriller (The Northeast Film Festival) and Best Feature Film and Audience Choice Award (New Orleans Big Easy International Film Festival).
It was also a hit with me, not only because it kept me guessing the entire time, and the level of performance. But also because we need more films with this message. To remind people that behind all the propaganda, ruthless agendas and simple hate, we are all people, sharing 99.9 percent of our DNA. We need to find ways to come together and get past ancient hatreds and superstitious beliefs. That includes right here in the United States, in places such as Ferguson, Missouri.
This film is a great contribution to that effort.