Mar 13, 2014
Who could not look at E.J. Assi and Nada Shouhayib without thinking: “Movie stars”? I thought it when I saw the poster for their indie film debut, Detroit Unleaded, and was thoroughly convinced the first time they interact onscreen in director Rola Nashef’s debut film. And when the movie ended, I immediately wanted to follow their lives into another film!
E.J. ASSI podcast excerpt: "One of the things (director) Rola Nashef wanted to get across was this barrier between my character, Sami, and Nada's character, Najlah. Sami and Naj were falling for each other, intimately, but there is something keeping them from each other. Rola didn't want cheesy groping -- she wanted intimate, sensual... classy."
Detroit Unleaded is a romantic comedy told in a place we haven’t associated with romance lately, Detroit. And rather than tell a story of that city’s African-American community, this sweet, well-paced film takes us into the city’s working-class Arab-American roots. We see a male-dominant society – Nada, as Najlah, works for her brother and shows respect for him – but the cracks in that culture are obvious. And E.J., as Sami, wants to support his mother after his father is gunned down in the family gas station, but what his heart really desires is in a world he imagines beyond his little glass cage. A world built around Najlah.
NADA SHOUHAYIB: "E.J. provided a really good friendship for me on a professional level because I had never acted before."
There are so many great, small moments in the film, but my favorite is when Sami wants to kiss Naj, but she continually rebuffs him. “Can you blame me?” he asks with puppydog eyes. “No,” she says, which cracked me up. This film is sort of an Arab-American version of Kevin Smith’s Clerks – without all the scatalogical and off-color humor.
E.J. ASSI: "There's a misconception of how dangerous Detroit is... The film shows the good side. And that's what people need to see."
Following its theatrical run, Detroit Unleaded is now available for digital download via Amazon Instant, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Microsoft Xbox, and Sony Playstation.