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At the height of the war in Iraq, thousands of Iraqis were fleeing the country each day. Among them was Mohamed, a 23-year-old from Baghdad, whose strikingly Western appearance and manner resulted in threats to his life. Forced into exile in Syria, Mohamed crosses path with Jennifer, a freelance videojournalist from Brooklyn, New York, who begins to document his life as a refugee.

Drawn into the fantasy world he invents to escape his harsh reality, Jennifer forms a unique friendship with Mohamed, embarking on a series of adventures around the city of Damascus. From crashing presidential referendum parties to staging elaborate photo shoots in the old city, the pair creates welcome distractions from the uncertainty of Mohamed’s situation.

Jennifer returns to Brooklyn, but can’t stop thinking about the new friend she left behind. The line between journalist and subject is crossed as she becomes determined to help him start a new life. Against the advice of her colleagues and loved ones, Jennifer goes back to Syria with a mission to get Mohamed asylum in a safe country.

What follows is a journey that proves to be more than either bargained for – as illusions are shattered, a friendship is tested, and one man struggles to attain the 'American Dream.'

The Team

Jennifer Utz Director

Jennifer Utz began covering the Iraqi refugee crisis in the fall of 2006, and was one of the first journalists to highlight the extent of the crisis.

In 2008, Jennifer launched Iraqi Refugee Stories – a website dedicated to the crisis. It received praise by a number of publications, including The Utne Reader and Mother Jones Magazine.

Jennifer has worked as a one-woman-band videojournalist in nearly 40 countries; most recently on assignment in Haiti, Egypt, Bolivia, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, and American Samoa, where she produced short video documentaries on humanitarian issues for The United Nations and UNHCR.

Jennifer was previously a producer at Democracy Now, an independent radio and television news broadcast hosted by the award-winning journalist Amy Goodman.

Jennifer Utz Portfolio

Mark Monroe Writer

Mark Monroe is a rehabilitated journalist turned Writer and Director. He began his career writing the nightly news for CNN in Atlanta. Moving to the west coast, he established a career in documentary television, producing series episodes for Discover, TLC, FSN & VH1, among others.

In 2008, Monroe made his documentary directing debut with the Disney release MORNING LIGHT. Monroe has been twice nominated for a WGA award, first for ONCE IN A LIFETIME, and most recently for THE COVE, which also won the 2010 Oscar for Best Feature Documentary. He also wrote the critically acclaimed documentaries TILLMAN STORY and CHASING ICE.


Mark Monroe on IMDB

Katie Hinsen Editor

Katie Hinsen on IMDB

Lauren Saffa Additional Editor

Lauren Saffa is a film editor/producer specializing in documentaries and commercials. Her documentary credits include DEEPEST DIVE for BBC America (2011) and MY DECISIONS (2014) — both with director Fisher Stevens — and FATHER RICK, a short documentary directed by Paul Haggis (Toronto Film Festival, 2014).

Saffa co-produced and edited the feature documentary ANOTHER WORLD about Occupy Wall Street (Berlin International Film Festival, 2014) and the narrative short TINTO for Subway Token Films (TriBeCa Film Festival, 2014).

Saffa is currently working on the documentaries THE ROAD TO HAINAN, a film about human rights activism in China, and STOLEN WORLD, about the exotic animal trade. She edits commercials for Deutsch Inc. and Mode Media.

Lauren Saffa on IMDB

Margaret Lewis Co-Producer

Margaret Lewis on IMDB

Gabriel Judet-Weinshel Composer

Max Gabriel is a songwriter and film composer; née Gabriel Judet-Weinshel, he is also a filmmaker under that longer name. A Paste Recommends artist and Starbucks-featured songwriter, his first record on indie imprint sonaBLAST! Records (New York/Louisville), “The Exile of Saint Christopher,” was produced by Conan O’Brien’s Scott Healy and featured Bakithi Kumalo of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and folk-rock sensation Brett Dennen. Gabriel’s songs have been played nationally on Fuse’s “Live From Bonnaroo 2010,” on the TV series “In Between Men,” and in the feature independent film “Where Hope Grows.” Ian Mathers of the Village Voice writes, “He’s got one of those malleable voices that can sound a bit like everyone from David Byrne to Ed Harcourt, but always mostly like himself.” Another record of lyric-based songs is due out in 2016.

As a composer, Gabriel’s music can be heard in the upcoming feature narrative film Omphalos (noir/jazz/electronica textures), and in commercials and documentaries. He can be seen playing live in various formations and collaborations, most recently with his jazz trio Max Gabriel and the Broken Ribs, where the group was the house band at New York’s Soho House for over three years.

Gabriel Judet-Weinshel on IMDB

Brian Hutchings Colorist

Brian Hutchings has been working in the industry for over 25 years. Most notably, he was the colorist for TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2014. Other credits include THE HUNTING GROUND, THE INVISIBLE WAR, and MARWENCOL.

Brian Hutchings on IMDB


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