When a Syrian refugee's dream of U.S. citizenship is crushed by a firebrand congressman running for governor, he discovers evidence that can break the campaign and his hope for a new life along with it.
Americano tells the story of Isaac, a Syrian refugee and hacker, who is desperately working to become an American citizen--a chance at a new life coming from his ravaged home leveled by civil war. Hollester, a demagogue running for Pennsylvania governor and inspiring radical followers, offers Isaac that chance if he performs a hack on Billie--his campaign director who he fears is leaking information to the media. Hope comes apart as Hollester's true motive is revealed. Unexpected alliances are formed and the guardian of 250-year-old promise takes a side.
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How would you answer the question, “What does a modern patriot look like?”
My immediate answer was something most Americans would probably say--a person waving/wearing an American flag, hand-over-heart while standing during the Star-Spangled Banner at a football game and vehemently supporting our military while being a natural-born citizen. That answer fits nicely on a retro propaganda poster that would probably hang in the rooms of the people in my neighborhood growing up, but that poster has become incredibly toxic and no matter which direction I took, my script made its purpose hyper clear-- to tear that poster apart and rebuild it.
When we think of the “face” of a patriot, the face that would protect a 250-year-old promise whenever called to do so, it’s no longer one color—it never has been. It’s an identity that has been forged by immigrants and refugees over generations.
The script was developed across the past two years--a time of growing polarization in the U.S., where on one side: a rise in dissent has been challenging our established ideas of patriotism and on the other are provocative voices fanning the flames of fear and clinging to a toxic idea of what a true citizen looks like (that original poster). Our story puts forward the idea that the one to fight and protect the pursuit of happiness, the American dream, can be universal—whether a citizen or not. I set out to tell a short, modern patriot story through the eyes of an immigrant facing almost impossible odds in today’s America—a Syrian refugee named Isaac on the eve of deportation. At one point we each had an ancestor who faced a version of that threat on these shores! It’s the universal American origin story that we need to be reminded of as often as possible.
We come into our take on that story as Isaac finishes a favor for a firebrand congressman named Hollester (who is promising to sign his deportation appeal). Isaac’s dream becomes a nightmare when the rug is pulled out from under his feet—killing any chance of hope he has to become a citizen. The film captures what Isaac does next—track down his last hope; Hollester’s hardened campaign director Billie. The action follows our trio as they each enter the ring ready to fight, but ends up motivating each other in what culminates to a showdown inside a Philadelphia coffee shop. Isaac’s story is very modernist, the obstacles are big and external: citizenship and patriotism against pacifism for survival. Hollester’s story is truly traditional. His obstacles are those that threaten a conservative-driven world he feels is being poisoned by a progressive one (even though his words carry a double meaning every time he speaks); and Billie’s is one of survival versus living—in many ways she is evocative of the strong women I knew growing up who chose to live a life of security over knowing the world they were impacting.
The experience I'm most trying to communicate with Americano is that of a hyperreal drama—feeling the spirit of the past with the electricity of what’s happening right now in America. At fade out, I want the audience to walk away with a sense of satisfaction, while being uncertain of Isaac’s future. I’m not guaranteeing a happy ending because of where we are in the U.S. I want this to film to show citizens and dreamers the important power of resistance and to know the founders remind us that even in our darkest moments, we can make our finest hour.
So what does a modern patriot look like? Americano is my answer.
Writer . Director