Rola Nashef


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Born in Sidon, Lebanon, and raised in Michigan, Rola Nashef is a writer, director, producer and multi-media artist who draws upon her extensive experience in the arts and involvement in Detroit’s diverse communities as a catalyst for creative expression and social movement. Named Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” (2011), Nashef has received the prestigious Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellowship (2014) for her long-standing work and has been awarded the Adrienne Shelley Director’s Award (2014) for her sophomore feature film, Nadia’s House, currently in development.  Nashef is a recipient of the Detroit Knight Arts Challenge (2014) for her work with Detroit Film Labs, a project that fosters dynamic storytelling in Detroit by offering a series of workshops to first-time filmmakers from diverse communities.

Nashef’s debut, award-winning feature film, Detroit Unleaded, holds its place in American cinema history as the very first Arab-American rom-com portraying second generation Arab-American characters set outside the context of religion, politics or 9/11.  A slice-of-life dramedy that centers around an Arab-owned 24-hour gas station in Detroit, the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (2012) where Nashef won the inaugural Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award. It is currently being digitally distributed through iTunes, Amazon and Video on-Demand across the US and Canada.

In addition to her work as an artist, Nashef lectures extensively on a wide-array of topics, from the practical elements of filmmaking to the portrayal of Arabs and Arab Americans in the media and in popular culture. Drawing upon her 16 years experience and in-depth knowledge of independent filmmaking, Nashef leads workshops on both the creative and practical elements of filmmaking, guiding students and practitioners alike in developing sound media and art-based projects.

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In her latest work, Rola Nashef, The Director’s Cut, filmmaker and multi-media artist, Rola Nashef, takes us from her early years of arriving in Lansing, Michigan, as a Lebanese immigrant and ESL child, to her outer life as an imaginative and engaged kid with friends and relationships that crossed highly diverse and often segregated communities in Michigan. “Because I am Arab with wildly curly hair — I could ‘pass’ in nearly every community. Black, Mexican, White — I was beige, I was funny, and I knew from very early on that I was able to access people and understand them because of my ‘floating’ status in a way that was different.”

Through powerful and lively storytelling, Nashef reflects on her own life experiences and introduces audiences to an entire cast of characters who would later become the inspiration for her award-winning short and debut, feature film, Detroit Unleaded, a slice of-life romantic “dramedy” that centers around an Arab-owned 24-hour gas station in Detroit.  A lifetime in the making, Rola Nashef, The Director’s Cut is a unique and emotionally provocative performance that moves back and forth between personal memoir and director’s commentary. Poignant and humorous, this multi-media presentation features never-before-seen clips from her short and feature films, behind-the-scenes footage, family photos, and personal stories about life growing up Arab in America.


Arab American National MuseumThe Arab American National Museum (AANM) is the first and only museum in the United States devoted to Arab American history and culture. Arab Americans have enriched the economic, political and cultural landscape of American life. By bringing the voices and faces of Arab Americans to mainstream audiences, we continue our commitment to dispel misconceptions about Arab Americans and other minorities. The Museum brings to light the shared experiences of immigrants and ethnic groups, paying tribute to the diversity of our nation.

The Arab American National Museum documents, preserves and presents the history, culture and contributions of Arab Americans.

The AANM is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums; an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution; and a founding member of the Immigration and Civil Rights Network of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.