On March 15, Heidi Saman’s feature debut, Namour, will bow on Netflix. The wry drama about Steven, a 20-something son of Egyptian immigrants (played by Karim Saleh) stuck in a dead-end valet job at a high-end Los Angeles restaurant, won the LA Muse award at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where it debuted last June.
Acquired by Ava DuVernay’s releasing company Array, the film, a modern-day treatise on parental expectations told through the immigrant lens, has hints of classics such as The Graduate and Taxi Driver, something Saman, 37, intended.
“I want this film to feel like an American film. It is an American film. And who gets to be depicted as an American and who gets to tell the story as an American is changing. But that’s how I see it,” Saman says.
Saman, a daughter of Egyptian immigrants who came to the United States in the 1970s, made Namour back in 2014, before Donald Trump campaigned on building a border wall and restricting immigration from Muslim-majority countries. Saman, who is also an associate producer for NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, found the 2008 recession as her inspiration for the film.
“The recession is what inspired me to write the film,” she says. “I was in my 20s when it happened. I myself had the feeling of ‘You’ve just graduated, you’re part of a mobile middle class and you have all these opportunities ahead.’ I felt like the recession took all of that away. I saw friends lose jobs. Some lose their home. And I thought the idea of having all this potential and then it’s taken away was interesting. What do you do with that?”
What she did was make a film about a man floundering in his job. A young guy with a lot of expectations thrust upon him by his parents, who can’t seem to find his passion and his temporary job of parking cars has become more permanent than he expected it to be.
Heading to Netflix was more than Saman ever thought possible.
“I’m scared and excited,” she says. “I never thought it would have this big of an audience. I’m terrified. You make these things and you hope people can see it but you don’t realize people can just be in their bed, on their iPad and just sort of click on it,” she says.
“Every part of this process has been about slowly letting go but this now is about okay, we are done.”
Prior to bowing on Netflix, Namour will debut with a series of one-night and limited engagements across the country, including Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Houston, Seattle, and Honolulu, starting on March 1.