ACCEPT THE CALL
USA 83 MIN, 2019
Twenty-ﬁve years after Yusuf Abdurahman left Somalia as a refugee to begin his life anew in Minnesota, his worst fear is realized when his 19-year-old-son Zacharia is arrested in an FBI counterterrorism sting operation. Through the eyes of a father striving to understand why his young son would leave his American life behind to attempt to join a terrorist organization in a foreign country, Accept the Call explores racism and prejudice against immigrants, the rise of targeted recruitment by radicalized groups, and the struggles of Muslim youth growing up in the US today. This intimate ﬁlm captures the story of this father and son attempting to mend their relationship, after breaking each other’s hearts.
A former broadcast journalist, Eunice Lau has a penchant for telling stories concerning social justice. «Through the Fire» was nominated for best short documentary at AMPAS Student Academy in 2013 while she was pursuing her MFA in ﬁlm directing at New York University. With her training in narrative ﬁlmmaking, she seeks to bring a cinematic form to documentary ﬁlms. Her works have appeared on Discovery Channel, Al Jazeera English, and Channel News Asia. As a Singaporean ﬁlmmaker based in New York City, Eunice’s work is supported by Chicken & Egg Pictures, Tribeca Film Institute and ITVS. «Accept the Call» is a continuum of her exploration on the deﬁnition of the American hyphenated identity and capturing the journey of the immigrant.
In the decade following the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, DC, the U.S. and her allies have sought vengeance on the Islamic extremists and retreated into a world governed by policies of pre-emptive wars and massive retaliation. Fourteen years after the fall of the twin towers, seven Somali American teenagers were arrested on terrorism charges as they attempted to leave the country to join ISIS.
Accept the Call is a father-and-son story that takes an unconventional path in approaching the crises of America’s systemic and institutional racism, the rise of radicalization, and extremist ideology that besiege us today. For three years, I followed the journey Yusuf Abdurahman took to understand what happened to his son Zacharia, and the impact on his family when he was arrested. Through their stories, viewers will experience the systemic racism and prejudices youths like Zacharia endured growing up in America, while grappling with the religious nuance and theological battles within the community that put them between a rock and a hard place.
One of the anecdotal stories that struck me most about Zacharia is related to me by his friend and former inmate Shaker Masri whom he met shortly after being sentenced. Shaker recounted how he saw Zacharia making a Mother’s Day card in secret, because he had missed his mother terribly but was forbidden by the strictures of the ideology he had subscribed to then to celebrate such festivals. The image of a boy, barely an adult, expressing his love for his mother, but conﬂicted by the ideological battle for his soul, wrenched my heart. In telling the story of Yusuf and his son, I hope the microscopic lens on them will rise above the dissonance and evoke a visceral response in audience of all political persuasions, and in so doing begin important dialogues.
We need to acknowledge the impact of the «War on Terror» on a generation of young Americans like Zacharia who grew up under the shadows of these punitive policies. At the same time, we need to realize how the ﬁrst casualties of this conﬂict are often Muslims who do not subscribe to extreme ideology. In not acknowledging the inﬂuence of ultraconservative interpretations of the religion, or discerning between peaceful and progressive Muslims like Yusuf and the fundamentalists who carry out human rights abuses in the name of Islam, we have contributed to their vulnerability and marginalization.
We need to be inspired by Yusuf’s fortitude to carry out honest conversations. Only then, can we push back and challenge the false and racist narratives propagated by right-wing factions of society that fan the mills of Islamophobia and anti-liberal modernity rhetoric, and give our audiences an honest perspective on our global crises.
- 30th Singapore Film Festival
- 20th Woodstock Film Festival
- 30th Human Rights Watch Film Festival
DOKer 2020 — Main Competition