banner for The Idol, the film

The Idol (2016)

Monday, September 19, 6:45 p.m.
The Little Theatre, #5
240 East Ave Rochester, NY 14604

Film makerHany Abu-Assad, whose other films include Omar and Paradise Now.
Film Type: Documentary / Drama / Narrative feature film. Nominated for Audience Choice Award (Best Feature Narrative) at Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (2016).
Length & Language:  97 min., in Spanish and Arabic

The Idol is based on the true story of Mohammed Assaf’s childhood with a ragtag group of children who spend their time roaming Gaza, playing, and trying to start their own band. Mohammed is only ten years old when his twelve-year-old sister Nour convinces him that his exceptional voice will someday take him far beyond the borders of Gaza. Through the eyes of wandering the children, we see the everyday sights of Gaza and Palestinian life. We see them struggle to earn money for their musical instruments, and we see the children deal with tragedy, each child in the band coping in different ways. Memories of their experiences together form some of the inspiration for Mohammed later on.

Fast-forward to a teenage Mohammed in 2012 and we again see the way Gaza and its people have changed. Mohammed drives a taxi and still dreams of a singing career. He finds the inspiration to follow his dream when tryouts for the “Arab Idol” competition are held in Cairo. Mohammed makes it out of Gaza, enters the competition, and the rest is history. As a contestant, Mohammed is inspired by his childhood experiences, by his need to sing, and by the chance to represent the Palestinian people. At the end of the film, we ourselves are inspired by Mohammed’s actual on-air “Arab Idol” performances.

A simply told but thoroughly captivating portrait of Muhammad Assaf, the Gazan singer who won “Arab Idol” at age 23 and became an irresistible symbol of hope for Palestinians worldwide

Justin Chang, Variety

Panelist Mahmoud Talat Altalouli

Mahmoud Talat Altalouli

Mahmoud Talat Altalouli is a Palestinian from Gaza. He is married and has four children. Mr. Altalouli along his family arrived in the States in June 2014 to pursue his graduate studies. Mr. Altalouli holds two bachelor’s degrees: English Teacher Education at Al Azhar University of Gaza and International Studies at Nazareth College of Rochester, NY. He has recently completed a master’s degree in TESOL at Nazareth College. He’s now a PhD student in teaching and curriculum at the University of Rochester.

During his degrees at Nazareth College, he worked as a program coordinator for the United States Studies Institute for Student Leaders and the International Service Exchange Program. He also worked as an academic adviser for intentional students at the Center for International Education and a training program coordinator at the Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies & Dialogue.

In Gaza, he worked for different national and international organizations, including being the manager of the largest youth program, Global Citizen Corps that was run by Mercy Corps, an international non-governmental organization. He also worked as an adviser, trainer, and instructor in various educational centers and institutes, including the Continuing Education and Community Service Center of Al-Azhar University-Gaza and AMIDEAST.

Mahmoud will join us at The Little Theatre.