Producer/DP Ron Rehana and director Haron Adoni Esho have set themselves a tall order for their debut feature "Poetic Emancipation."
"Think 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' as a drama, but without the stereotypes," Esho said. "We want to do for the Assyrian community what that movie did for the Greek community."
Esho is shooting the mixed English - and Assyrian - language film on 24P DV throughout August. Writer Yalda Esha stars as an isolated young poet who begins to connect with the world through a homeless poet played by Spiro Zafiropoulos.
Galvanized by the success of Assyrian-American producer Beni Tadd Atoori, who produced the 2002 Sony Pictures Classics release "13 Conversations About One Thing" and is writer/producer of the forthcoming epic "Gilgamesh," Rehana and Esho are committed to giving their culture a previously unrealized presence on American screens.
"We're looking at two different markets," Rehana said, "marketing to the Assyrian community first, and in the long term going into the broader American market and hopefully worldwide."
Through their R. Rehana Productions, the partners raised the under-$100,000 budget from private investors in the local, 100,000-strong Assyrian community. "A lot of people took an interest in us and wanted to see something that would be part of the community as well as part of the industry," Rehana said.
They're considering two possible scripts for their followup project, the Assyrian-language "The Day I Decided to Go to Babylon and Get Married," and the English-language "Fork."
Both partners are Columbia College alumni. Esho, an Iraqi native who moved to Chicago as a child, wrote a script for hire for a major studio. The film was shot and shelved, he said, and he can't discuss the details.