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Students’ films get audience at festival

Contributing Writer

Published: Sunday, September 12, 2010

Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 16:04

Central Florida Future

Mandy Georgi

Correction appended: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Ahmed Salih as Achmed Falih.

What do a Muslim-American man looking for love and a professor saving displaced dogs have in common?

For starters, both are subjects of two different UCF student-directed short films being showcased in this year’s Global Peace Film Festival.

Three UCF cinema studies students — Abdullah Sabawi, Aleksey Siman, and Benjamin Michel — have been selected to participate in Orlando’s 2010 Global Peace Film Festival.

Sabawi’s film is a documentary with a comedic approach called Muslim Bachelorism (titled Muslim Bachelorhood on the GPFF website), and Siman and Michel worked together on a documentary titled A Samaritan about a professor of women’s studies at UCF who helps women and their pets in domestic abuse situations.

All three students created the films for a documentary workshop class taught by Lisa Mills and chose to submit them to the festival. Although the two films have very different subject matter, both seek to spread the festival’s message of peace and understanding through the story of a unique individual.

Muslim Bachelorism focuses on Sabawi’s friend Ahmed Salih and his attempts to seek companionship as a young Muslim-American.

“Muslims, like any other people in this country, are in need of fulfilling themselves and seeking companionship, but they also like to do it in accordance with their beliefs,” Sabawi said. “It gets interesting, because Muslim boys and girls have principles that limit unnecessary interaction between males and females.

“At the same time, we have ourselves in college classes and work where we’re interacting with women all the time. We end up having an identity crisis and these interesting situations where these young guys are increasing [their] need to find companions.”

While the documentary is comedic, it does have a more serious undertone. Sabawi hopes that his film will help viewers recognize a side of Muslim culture that is rarely portrayed in mainstream media.

“If we, for once, show Muslims as general people in a society seeking companionship,” Sabawi said. “We’re going to learn more than just about his struggle; we’ll gain insight into a population of Americans who are mistaken for being strange or non-mainstream.”

A Samaritan is Siman and Michel’s short documentary about UCF professor Leandra Preston and her efforts to “[help] women escape domestic violence by fostering their pets.”

Both Siman and Michel originally intended to focus their documentary on animal shelters, but after speaking to fellow student Bianca Fortis about Preston and meeting her in person, their story quickly shifted to more of a human interest piece.

“What captivated us about her was her sense of care and selflessness,” Siman said.

“She’s the type of person that couldn’t see a person or an animal suffer,” Michel added. “What we really felt was important was the [story of ] the animals being taken care of and being as strong of an element.

“These animals are also transitioning from domestic abuse [with] their human masters.”

While the film has been screened at UCF, this is its festival debut. Siman hopes that viewers will take away a little bit of Preston’s personality.

“We do need more people like her,” Michel said. “We really wanted to set her as an example of caring and knowing what’s going on around you. The whole point is to bring awareness.

“People should be more aware of issues going on with human beings and people in our own communities that need help, comfort and support to get through these situations they’re going through.”

The Global Peace Film Festival runs at venues in Orlando and Winter Park this year from Sept. 21-26.

Siman and Michel’s film will be shown Sept. 24 at 8:30 p.m. at the Plaza Cinema Cafe on South Orange Avenue and Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Winter Park Public Library.

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