Sundance Channel to Premiere 'On the Road in America'
12-Part Doc Series Looks at U.S. Through Lens of 4 Young Arabs During
10-Week Cross-Country Journey
Begins June 4, Airs Wednesday Nights at 9:00 ET/PT
NEW YORK, Feb. 19 -- Sundance Channel will premiere "On
the Road in America," the 12-part documentary series that follows four
young Arabs as they travel across the United States, on June 4, 2008.
Created by Academy Award(R)-nominated producer Jerome Gary (Pumping Iron),
and executive produced by Gary and Leon Shahabian, the series was conceived
with the intent to expose Middle Eastern audiences to the diversity and
uniqueness of the United States and Americans. Ultimately, "On the Road in
America" highlights the differences and similarities between the two
cultures and facilitates a deeper understanding of each.
The series originally aired on Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC).
"On the Road in America" airs Wednesday nights as a weekly half-hour
program, premiering Wednesday, June 4th at 9:00 ET/PT. It is produced by
Layalina Productions of Washington, D.C. in association with Visionaire
Media of Los Angeles. It was made possible by a grant from the Richard M.
Fairbanks Foundation of Indiana.
The program's cast includes Ali Amr, a friendly 22-year-old Egyptian
who is studying accounting at the American University in Cairo; Sanad Al
Kubaissi, an upbeat Saudi in his sophomore year at the American University
in Dubai; and Mohamed Abou-Ghazal, an outspoken 27-year-old Jordanian who
has lived most of his life in Lebanon and completed his medical studies at
the American University of Beirut. Rounding out the ensemble is Lara Abou
Saifan, a dynamic young Palestinian woman who has been married for five
years and lives in Beirut. Lara is also a member of the production team,
and serves as a bridge between her fellow travelers and the crew. Traveling
by RV across the U.S. in the summer of 2006, the cast and members of the
production crew stopped for several days at points of interest including
New York City, Chicago, the Mississippi Delta, Los Angeles and Big Sur.
The schedule for "On the Road in America" is as follows:
Wednesday, June 4th
Episode 1: Washington, D.C. -- Directed by Jerome Gary. As the "On the
Road" production team prepares to begin shooting in July 2006, war breaks
out between Israel and Hezbollah, with Southern Lebanon as a primary
battleground. Mohamed arrives from Lebanon with just the clothes on his
back; he is followed by Ali and Sanad. The three young men take part in a
conference held by the bipartisan research organization CSIS (Center for
Strategic and International Studies). Lara is successfully re-routed out of
Beirut and arrives in Washington, ready to begin work as both cast and crew
member. The four young Arabs get an introduction to America's democratic
process when they join the volunteer ranks of Washington's mayoral
Wednesday, June 11th
Episode 2: New York -- Directed by Jerome Gary. As their RV takes them
from Washington to New York, the cast members are preoccupied by the grim
news out of Lebanon, where war between Israel and Hezbollah rages on. In
Manhattan, the cast surveys life in the capital of capitalism, an odyssey
that takes them from the shopping sanctums of Fifth Avenue, to the warrens
of Wall Street, to the basketball courts of Harlem. Then it's on to the
Hamptons, where New Line Cinema founder Bob Shaye hosts a classic summer
lobster boil amidst much discussion of Middle East conflict and American
involvement. Lara reconsiders her opinions about Israelis as she spends
more time with the series' Israeli director of photography, Guy Livneh.
Wednesday, June 18th
Episode 3: Chicago -- Directed by Aaron Fishman. Fishman, a Chicago
native, sets out to show Ali, Sanad, Mohamed and Lara his hometown's
"trifecta": food, sports and culture. The quartet is split into groups of
two to explore Chicago's North and South Sides, communities that offer very
different iterations of the city's signature pleasures. The travelers
interact with an array of locals as they recruit players for the North
Side/South Side softball game that will conclude their five-day visit.
Tensions grow between some of the cast members and the production team, and
Lara steps in to mediate.
Wednesday, June 25th
Episode 4: Mississippi Delta -- Directed by Mary Lambert. The cast sees
another side of America when they travel to the rural South. In
Clarkesdale, Mississippi, Jerdi Lambert's farm offers a glimpse of a more
prosperous era, while the decaying buildings of the city's business
district tell a different story. The cast gets a first-hand introduction to
blues and gospel at the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, and take
in Sunday services at a Black church. The visit wraps up with an
old-fashioned fish fry and a jam session with local blues legend Super
Wednesday, July 2nd
Episode 5: Montana -- Directed by Jerome Gary. A rugged pack trip into
Yellowstone country elicits different levels of enthusiasm among the three
cast members camped out under the stars. Meanwhile, their fellow voyager is
treated to a stay at a modern dude ranch. The group is introduced to two
respected Western experts, writer/anthropologist Larry Lahren and
author/grizzly bear expert Doug Peacock. A dip into the thermal pool at
Chico Hot Springs provides an opportunity to relax and make new friends.
Wednesday, July 9th
Episode 6: Los Angeles Part 1 -- Directed by Danny Bilson. Ali, Sanad,
Mohamed and Lara get a multi-dimensional look at celebrity culture during
their visit to Los Angeles. The itinerary includes tours of the Chinese
Theatre and Universal Studios, as well as a visit to swag-rich enclave
catering to the needs of Emmy Award nominees. The cast attends a special
performance at the Laugh Factory comedy club, which is followed by a
freewheeling discussion with the night's performers.
Wednesday, July 16th
Episode 7: Los Angeles Part 2 -- Directed by Jerome Gary. The second
leg of their Los Angeles sojourn offers the cast a look at the city's
charms and contradictions, as they travel from beach to barrio. Visiting
one of the city's major mosques, they meet with the public relations
director and discuss the realities of life in the U.S. after 9/11. The
city's culture of self-improvement can be seen in multiple venues, from
yoga classes on the West Side to the "gang rehab" services offered by the
nonprofit organization Homeboy Industries in downtown L.A.
Wednesday, July 23rd
Episode 8: Big Sur Part 1 -- Directed by Jerome Gary. The cast and crew
drive north on California's winding Highway 1 to Big Sur and their next
destination: the Esalen Institute, a haven for alternative ideas since the
1960s. After meeting Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy, the cast takes part
in an open forum about Middle East-U.S. relations. Ali and Mohamed let down
their emotional guards during a group discussion moderated by
author/teacher Byron Katie.
Wednesday, July 30th
Episode 9: Big Sur Part 2 -- Directed by Jerome Gary. The Esalen
conference on Middle East-U.S. relations continues, with contributions from
Congressman Sam Farr as well as members of the Big Sur community. The
political gives way to the personal, as Ali, Lara and Mohamed discuss their
experiences together in a relaxed group forum. The American leg of the
production wraps up, and the remaining cast and crew gather at the Bay Area
home of series creator Jerome Gary for a farewell dinner.
Wednesday, August 6th
Episode 10: Cairo -- Directed by Jerome Gary. Several members of the
"On the Road" production team travel to the Middle East to visit the
erstwhile travelers in their home countries. In Egypt, Ali introduces Lara
and his new American friends to his family and shows off his hometown,
Cairo. Ali's family and friends discuss their perceptions of how he has
changed since returning from the U.S. The group enjoys Ramadan
celebrations, a tour of the pyramids and a sailing trip on the Nile.
Wednesday, August 13th
Episode 11: Dubai and Beirut -- Directed by Jerome Gary. Sanad shows
the Americans around Dubai, where modernity co-exists with tradition and a
tourist itinerary includes skiing and dune buggy excursions. On the campus
of the American University in Dubai, Sanad and his friends discuss his
travels in the U.S. and the larger topic of American hegemony. The Middle
East tour concludes in Beirut with visits to Lara and Mohamed. We meet
Lara's mother and her husband, an interior decorator who is designing their
new home. Mohamed takes the Americans inside the medical clinic he helped
establish in one of the city's oldest refugee camps. A hot-air balloon trip
offers a bird's-eye view of the damage wreaked by the recent war between
Israel and Hezbollah.
Wednesday, August 20th
Episode 12: Indiana and Wisconsin/Pilot -- Directed by Jerome Gary. The
pilot episode of the series shows how "On the Road in America" began. Ali
and his fellow cast members, Imad Ghalayini and Mohammed Bachouti, travel
to the heart of the Midwest to experience America in time-honored fashion:
the road trip. Their route takes them to a major city, Indianapolis, as
well as the quaint small town of Madeline Island, Wisconsin.
Under the creative direction of Robert Redford, Sundance Channel is the
television destination for independent-minded viewers seeking something
different. Bold, uncompromising and irreverent, Sundance Channel offers
audiences a diverse and engaging selection of films, documentaries, and
original programs, all unedited and commercial free. Launched in 1996,
Sundance Channel is a venture of NBC Universal, CBS, and Robert Redford.
Sundance Channel operates independently of the non-profit Sundance
Institute and the Sundance Film Festival, but shares the overall Sundance
mission of encouraging artistic freedom of expression. Sundance Channel's
website address is http://www.sundancechannel.com.
Layalina Productions, Inc. is a non-profit corporation based in
Washington, D.C. Layalina was founded in March 2002 by its Chairman,
Richard Fairbanks, the former chief U.S. negotiator for the Middle East
Peace Process, to produce thoughtful Arabic and English language television
programming. The corporation's Board of Counselors comprises former
diplomats and officials, broadcasters, and private sector executives from
the United States. Layalina's educational, debate, entertainment, and
children's shows aim to strengthen existing bridges of mutual understanding
between the U.S. and the Arab world and build new ones. Layalina's
President, Marc Ginsberg, is a former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco.
Layalina's Honorary Chairman is former President George H.W. Bush. To learn
more about Layalina, visit http://www.layalina.tv.
Visionaire Media is a Los Angeles based production company that
specializes in reality based films and programming with redeeming values.
Visionaire also operates an international consultancy and training division
that specializes in media, storytelling, scenario planning and digital
production. Currently in production are a series on Muslim Women, Life
After Death - the journey of Carie Lemack (feature documentary), and Esalen
(feature documentary). American Caravan, a 13 part series about young
Americans on the road in the Middle East, is in preproduction in
association with Layalina Productions. Visionaire Media is headed by
Academy Award nominated producer Jerome Gary. For more, go to
SOURCE Sundance Channel