Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Heroism of a Syrian-American to be Showcased in a Hollywood Film

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In the last week of August of 2005, the city of New Orleans was devastated by what turned out to be one of the  five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. Hurricane Katrina flooded 80% of the city and killed 1,836 people. One man who decided not to leave the city was Syrian-American Abdulrahman Zeitoun. He stayed behind to protect his property and his business.

Abdulrahman's experiences were brought to light by best-selling author Dave Eggers who published his book Zeitoun in 2009. In the aftermath of the hurricane, and when most of the city was underwater, Abdulrahman paddled silently in a canoe, delivering supplies to those who needed them and helping those whom he could help.

A film version of the book is now in the works and is due to be released in 2011. The film is an animated film that carries the same title, Zeitoun. American filmmaker Jonathan Demme is the director. The New York Times Arts Beat blog interviewed Demme about this back in October, 2009:

“I was staring at the book,” Mr. Demme said in a telephone interview, “and there’s this wonderful line drawing on the cover, the character of Zeitoun in his canoe, paddling through a submerged neighborhood. And I suddenly imagined, What if we could do an animated film and visualize the experiences of the Zeitoun family and all of New Orleans?” 

In a recent report on this, the Arabic-language news portal said [Ar] that the production is by Syrian-American businessman Jamal Daniel and that the cost of the film will be around $20 million.

The report also said that Abdulrahman Zeitoun is the brother of the Syrian swimming World Champion Mohamad Zeitoun about whom Syrian blogger Abufares had this to say, on his blog:

There's a tomb at the far end of the Corniche in Jableh, Syria. It is the resting place of 23 year old Mohamad Zeitoun (1941-1964), by far the most accomplished Syrian athlete of all times. 
Mohamad Zeitoun, Syrian long distance swimmer, went on to become an international legend as 3 times World Champion (1960, 1961 and 1964).

Abdulrahman Zeitoun was also born in Jableh, Syria in 1957.  He worked in construction according to He then traveled and worked as a sailor on Greek ships in 1974. In 1988, he settled in New Orleans, Louisiana where he worked as a contractor. There he met his wife Kathy and they had four kids.

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