"I worry I'll never get married or have a family. We all fear, war, death and destruction. We all have the same fear of tomorrow." - Dina, an Egyptian student in Beirut
Filmed after the fall of Saddam Hussein, 20 YEARS OLD IN THE MIDDLE-EAST traverses the region - from Jordan to Syria, Iran, and Lebanon - to take the pulse of Arab and Iranian youth.
The film offers an opportunity for Western college students to truly understand the lives and attitudes of their Middle Eastern counterparts: how they're different, and how they're the same.
Hyam Pourla, an Iranian theology student and aspiring mullah who clandestinely sings in a heavy metal band, says, "There are big games being played in the region. Great strategies decided for the Middle East... We are powerless. All people can do is suffer."
It's a feeling echoed by many, including Abbud, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian studying in Jordan: "We are reduced to silence," he says. "We can't speak freely here."
"We're now lacking ideals," says Kamal, who studies at the American University in Beirut. "The Arab myth is fading. We don't know where to look for references. We're lost."
And Badder, who dreams of being a BBC announcer, laments, "We're ashamed to say we're Arabs and proud of it."
Although wary of the future, this generation craves freedom, and wants to feel pride in themselves and their cultures. For many, dreams and hopes co-exist with hopelessness and despair.
As America becomes more deeply embroiled in the region, 20 YEARS OLD IN THE MIDDLE-EAST offers an indispensable snapshot of the attitudes of a generation that desires liberty over extremism, but at the same time fears that American policies will lead them into ever more warfare, and which - above all - simply wants to pursue their dreams.
"This film should be required viewing for leaders and citizens alike in the Middle East because it not only captures - often with great sadness - the frustration and despair of the Middle East's youth but it also offers solutions to these problems, if we would only listen. It is significant that of all the young people interviewed in the film, it is a young woman who is the most passionate about implementing change. It is not so much an issue of whether she will realize this dream or not. More importantly, she has passion for that dream and she believes she can bring about change."—Arabic Women's eNews
2006 Middle East & Central Asia Politics, Economics, and Society Conference
2004 Middle East Studies Association FilmFest
"Recommended. Culled from interviews conducted just two months after the fall of Baghdad in May 2003, TWENTY YEARS OLD... offers a newsworthy picture of a youthful Middle East not all that familiar to Western audiences - and a shame it isn't. More moving than anything is the universal call for more freedom, greater freedom. Thus the effects of oppressive government weigh heavily on the idealistic young; all the more reason to make the film available to often complacent American undergraduates."—Educational Media Reviews Online