All-American: Dearborn’s Young Arabs Take to the Field in Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football


Anyone who still thinks America and Islam are mutually exclusive concepts should consider the phenomenon of Dearborn, Michigan. Containing the highest concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East, the town is just as family-oriented, Hummer-happy, and football-mad as Anytown, USA. Attractive for Arab immigrants since the auto-industry explosion of the early 20th century, Dearborn became a fractious focal point in the anti-Muslim aftermath of 9/11, and tensions can still run high. Rashid Ghazi’s sleek documentary depicts a week in the life of the community via its working-class public school football team, the Fordson Tractors. After an eighth-anniversary commemoration of the terrorist attacks, the film’s predominantly Muslim squad prepares for a showdown with crosstown rival Dearborn High during the final week of Ramadan, meaning the players are fasting even as they endure grueling workouts. Although the subject is inherently compelling, Ghazi is much too ginger with it, swaddling extraordinary complexities in an ordinary underdog tale (and a misleading one, since supposedly scrappy Fordson actually had an undefeated season while its vilified rival—fielding many Arab-American players of its own—went just 5-4). Thankfully, the kids’ complicated impulses resist such packaging, whether they’re catcalling head-scarved co-eds outside the local gas station or channeling racial resentments into extra hard hits.