My parents have owned the same home in Los Angeles for over thirty years and it wasn’t until the 2008 economic recession that they feared they would have to give up the home they had owned for as long as their entire marriage. An ordinary middle class house in the suburbs, I didn’t realize what it signified until the prospect of losing it became a reality. An absurd sense of desperation took hold of me, as if losing that house meant I was losing a part of myself. That home was the result of my parents’ hard work and a work ethic they had passed along to my brother and me and suddenly it was going to disappear.
I believe that class is invisible in how it pervades our ethical codes, in how we see ourselves in relation to others, and how it informs our expectations of who we think we are. Namour attempts to trace Steven’s fall from the middleclass and how it affects the ethical codes he believes himself to possess. Steven struggles with how to define compromise as he renegotiates his idea of home, his parents, and his own ambitions; and he is reminded of this compromise at work every day when he parks the cars of the very privileged of Los Angeles. As the underpinnings of Steven’s class identity are unhinged, he starts to act out in ways that surprise even himself.
I wanted to explore how the recession would resonate with a middle class family who believed their lives would consistently improve or at least remain stable as long as they continued to work and plan for their future. I specifically wanted to examine how the recent economic crisis would affect a f irst generation immigrant family, whose very identity, like many first generation immigrants, is based on the notion of selfimprovement and the belief that persistence pays off. N amour i n essence asks what does one do when persistence is not enough? What happens when you work hard to sustain a relationship (or a house) and it’s not enough?
From the first scene (excluding the prologue), we see Steven doing a lot. However, as the film proceeds, there is an increasing visual contrast between what we see Steven doing and his interior nature. There remains something unnamed and stunted within him. The prologue serves to give us access to that internal state; it is shot differently than the rest of the film in a surreal dreamlike style to allude to the metaphorical ‘pause’ that his life is overwhelmed by.
To emulate Steven’s unhinging, there are awkward pauses and humorous moments to illustrate the pressures that he is placed under by his mother, grandmother, and father. The humorous sentiment also underscores the stagnancy that Steven experiences. The tonal elements of quiet comedy not only diffuse these tense relationship dynamics but also lend a context from which these conflicts can be more wholly seen and understood. Similar to life, comedy and drama are not separately experienced, but are intrinsically woven together in our daytoday experiences, so the tone of the script emulates this reality.
Similar to the way in which Marcello traverses the many worlds of paparazzi, prostitution, the intellectual elite and the povertystricken in Federico Fellini’s L a Dolce Vita, Steven’s world is comprised of varying circles of privilege, class, and culture (as a valet driver, his family, friends). But while Marcello’s character moves through L a Dolce Vita as a passive receptor to which he is never affected or changed, Steven must come to terms with his internal state even if this doesn’t alter those external circumstances in a tangible way.
Following the lineage of 60s American films set in Los Angeles, the cinematography will emphasize the panoramic and the horizontal. The wide shot will be relied upon, not as an establishing shot from which context is given or as an appendage to close up shots, but rather, as a pivotal shot from which context will be derived. To echo Steven’s interiority, camera movements will be meditative and cautious and will provide a critical counterpoint to the shaky handheld video images often seen of Arabs in mainstream media and television news.
Formally, Namour challenges conceptions of Los Angeles and ArabAmericans that I’ve been wrestling with as a film consumer and native Los Angelino. The immigrant experience in cinema is often illustrated in terms of binaries: insider/outsider, homeland/foreign land, native/alien. As the daughter of Arab immigrants, I never experienced the push or pull these binaries presented. My experience just was. Namour conveys a first generation immigrant experience that resembles a fluid confluence of cultural backgrounds, one that is never contemplated or categorized in either/or terms. The Arabic and English languages spoken in Namour and the ability of characters to navigate comfortably between communities of varying class, nationality and language is true to my own life and that of many hyphenated Americans. It’s why I describe Namour as an ‘LA’ film because this fluidity speaks to so many who live in the city, but is rarely seen in cinema.