By DANIEL HERATY
DEARBORN – The Fordson High School football team, and Dearborn itself, will soon be featured on the silver screen.
The players, coaches and former principal Imad Fadallah will be featured in a film, “Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football,” premiering at the AMC Star Fairlane 21 Sept. 9, and nationally starting Sept. 11.
According to a press release issued by North Shore Films, the production company in charge of the movie, the film begins on Sept. 11, 2009, and features the stories of four members of the varsity football team; running back Bilal Abu-Omarah, receiver Baquer Sayed, quarterback Ali Baidoun and defensive lineman Hassan Hussaiky, as they prepare to play a game against Dearborn High School during the last 10 days of Ramadan, a month where Muslims fast and pray every day from sunrise to sunset.
Dearborn School District Spokesman David Mustonen said the movie goes beyond just showing a football team.
“The movie tells a story about the Muslim community in Dearborn,” he said. “The move is meant to show the breaking of many stereotypes and really, saying, ‘Hey, it’s just regular folk.’ I think that’s really the message that becomes more important. I think the real value in the movie is from everyone outside of the city to see it.”
The film also highlights the societal background at at the time, and the prejudice the students faced.
“‘Fordson’ examines America’s attitude towards Islam and Muslims and gets insight from past and present players to the racism they have experienced while playing football,” the press release said.
“Fordson” also explores challenges the school district faced in addressing the needs of an overwhelmingly Muslim student body population, from changing the school calendar to accommodate the Eid ul-Fatir holiday, a three-day celebration marking the end of Ramadan, to providing special foods allowed under Islamic guidelines, to addressing the right of players to recite verses from the Quran on the field during warmups.
The director and executive producer, Rashid Gazzi, said in the release the idea for the film began in 2003 and took some prodding to get approval.
He said he first approached head coach Fouad Zaban about the movie in 2006. Zaban turned down the idea two seasons in a row before finally agreeing in 2009.
“I persisted for six years because I felt the story would resonate and had a real chance to make a positive impact on our society,” Gazzi said.
Dearborn Public Schools Supt. Brain Whiston said he was glad to see students promoted in a positive light.
“I wish we could focus more on how students are achieving, but anytime we can highlight the kids is a positive,” he said. “I think it’s got an interesting message and a reason for people to watch.”
(Daniel Heraty can be reached at [email protected].)