Before September 11 2001, New York City's Arab population was one among many immigrant groups making their way in the city: politically diverse; assimilated and separatist; Muslim, Christian, and fundamentalist; wealthy and working class; struggling and successful. But when two planes hijacked by Islamic extremists destroyed the World Trade Center, the lives of this immigrant group changed within hours.
Now, Arab-Americans are caught in the crossfire of President Bush's War on Terrorism, and are finding out how cold the welcome can be when you belong to the wrong immigrant group at the wrong time.
Centered in New York City, CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE puts viewers in the shoes of three individuals, each of whom has had a particularly tricky road to navigate in recent months.
Raghida Dergham is a high-level diplomatic correspondent for the leading independent Arabic newspaper and a regular pundit on CNN. While America has given her the opportunity to be an independent, successful woman, this cosmopolitan insider sometimes feels like a woman without a country. She can't return to Lebanon, her homeland, where she is under indictment for treason, and her reporting of Middle East perspectives regularly earns her hate mail from Americans as well.
Khader El-Yateem is an outsider among outsiders - an Arab Christian. But since September 11th, his Salam Arabic Lutheran Church has become a haven for Brooklyn Arabs, Christian and Muslim alike. All the while, the minister is carrying his own burden. Each day he phones home to Palestine to talk to his family as he watches Israeli forces bombard their village on TV.
As a child in Yemen, Ahmed Nasser watched American cop shows and decided he wanted to be "one of the good guys." He was stationed at Ground Zero in the days after 9/11 and felt the full impact of terrorism on New York. But in the same period, he also saw his fellow officers ignore or minimize calls for help from harassed Arab-Americans in his precinct.
Like many immigrants, Arab-Americans are torn between their adopted country and their homeland, between modern American culture and ancient traditions. Now, as they wrestle with their place in wartime America, CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE gives voice to a three people whose stories we need to hear.
"In its acute eye and ear for quotidian detail, and in its compassion for innocents, the film proves undeniably affecting." - New York Times
2002 Middle East Studies Association FilmFest
"A rare glimpse into a previously invisible - and often in question - community. - Newsweek
"Recommended. [The] mosaic of episodes... carry considerable punch, effectively capturing the tension between devotion to one's native culture and loyalty to the adopted country... The film's starkness adds to its power, while its timeliness - as America continues to align itself against predominantly Arab nations- cannot be overstated." - Video Librarian
"Brilliant... no one who watches will be able to see Arab or American identity in simple black-and-white terms [again]. Officer Nasser's final words in the film are among the most eloquent and resonant in all the [9/11 anniversary] programs." - Baltimore Sun
"Invites us to see Arab and Muslim immigrants in the U.S. as individuals, not as a fifth column of Al Queda sympathizers. Its human interest story bursts the stereotype of the dangerous Arab in our midst." - Al Jadid, A Review & Record of Arab Culture and Arts
"Recommended! Through straightforward film footage and interviews we are able to gain profound insight into the struggles of Arab-Americans. The film clippings intelligently and creatively alternate among the three characters. As long as we continue to reel from the events of September 11, [this film] will be a priority acquisition and a first choice for initiating sensible discussion on the topic." - Educational Media Reviews Online