College of Media | News

Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football

Joe Nocco
3/5/2012  10:00 am


As I entered the Art Theater in downtown Champaign on Monday night, I was immediately struck by the sweet smell of popcorn and candy.  While the crowd shuffled to the their seats, the sounds of quiet murmurs about the upcoming film could be heard.  Eagerness was in the air and the screen lit up.  


Attempting to create a homey and local theme, the theater aired tidbits and upcoming events rather than advertisements.  Did you know that University of Illinois alumnus, Joseph Tykociński-Tykociner, created the first ever movie that featured speaking?   The audience was also informed that this week’s featured film is “The Artist,” a recent winner of Best Picture at the Academy Awards. 


As the last word exited the screen, it was time for “Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football” to start.  The documentary was playing at the Art Theater in connection with Professor Nancy Benson’s International Reporting course, which is studying Muslim issues in preparation for a reporting trip to Turkey in May.  Co-producer, Ash-Har Quraishi, a University of Illinois alumnus, will be traveling to Turkey with Benson and her students. “Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football” is a documentary about the predominately Arab-Muslim community of Dearborn, Michigan during the post 9/11 era.  


This film focuses on four senior football players that attend Fordson High School.  Because of the strong faith within the Islamic community, the four young men were faced with obstacles that most eighteen year olds do not have to overcome.  


Fordson’s biggest game of the year is against their rival high school, Dearborn.  Ironically enough, this game fell during Ramadan, the most sacred of the Islamic holidays.  During this time, the Islamic congregation fasts throughout the daytime hours teaching them about patience, spirituality and other virtues.  The student athletes practiced and played during Ramadan just as hard, if not harder, than they always do.  The game against Dearborn means the world to these kids and they weren’t going to let it slip away.  The Fordson Tractors eventually went on to beat Dearborn High School and finished the season with a perfect 9-0 record.  


As I sat in the audience, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of many different emotions.  Empathy and pride were definitely the most dominant.  I felt empathy for the Fordson community because of how the community mistreated them after the attacks on September 11th, 2001.  Obviously no member of this community had anything to do with the attacks but racism was apparent nonetheless.  Terrorist is a repulsive word should never be used to describe an innocent citizen.  


On a lighter note, the film also evoked a great sense of pride.  Being an Illini means the world to me and to see a fellow Illini succeed is an immense feeling.  Ash-Har Quraishi created a great film that not only touched the Arab community of Dearborn, but the rest of the world as well.


Following the conclusion of the film, Ash-Har Quraishi conducted a question and answer discussion.  Nearly everyone in the theater remained seated.  Although questions were asked, this soon turned into a flood of compliments.  Praise from different age groups, nationalities and backgrounds were thrust upon the producer.  This ranged from simple congratulations to praise for taking the social issues “head on.”  Among these compliments, the audience also learned some interesting facts about the making of the documentary.  Not only have President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seen the film, but a nationally broadcasted television show has recently stemmed from Quraishi’s piece as well.  


As you watched the young players run down the field scoring touchdowns and making tackles, you could feel adrenaline building in the audience.  To show their support, many College of Media faculty and staff were in the audience. The bond that the University of Illinois family holds is greater than any I’ve ever experienced.  Alumni, staff, and current students all share the glory when one of us succeeds.  “Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football” definitely exuberated this notion.  Once an Illini, always an Illini.