Meet Jerome Gary and Learn About His Film: American Caravan

Jerome Gary, an Academy Award and Emmy nominated filmmaker based in New York City, will be showing his film, American Caravan, for the first time at the upcoming Beverly Hills Film Festival on its opening night on April 29.  See a clip here: https://vimeo.com/126281275

Jerome Gary on the Nile in Aswan, Egypt.  Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media
Jerome Gary on the Nile in Aswan, Egypt. Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media

“Jerome Gary is an intrepid, ground breaking filmmaker and teacher.  In 1976 he produced Pumping Iron introducing the emerging phenomenon, Arnold Schwarzenegger,” said Wendy Keys, retired programmer of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.  “Its popularity catapulted documentaries into a new realm and he began his career as an incisive and intelligent documentarian.”

Adrienne Rusk covered for Muslim prayer. Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media.
Adrienne Rusk covered for Muslim prayer.
Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media.

Gary has produced many successful documentaries since the 1970’s, and he has a strong interest in human stories.  He has produced documentaries about the Middle East, Russians, women, people who have been hurt, and will soon produce a documentary about the Mexican people.  “Starting my career as a producer for the Oscar-nominated docudrama “Pumping Iron,” which made “Schwarzenegger” a household name, set the course for a series of projects that have highlighted some of the most misunderstood people in the world—from bodybuilders and strippers to Russians and Arabs,” Gary said, now founder and chairman of his New York City-based production company, Visionaire Media.

Cast, crew, and Tunisian friends together during last night in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media.
Cast, crew, and Tunisian friends together during last night in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.
Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media.

American Caravan is his latest work that follows a small group of young Americans through the Middle East observing not only the political hotspots but the places where Arab citizens live out their everyday lives.  It is a compassionate observation without being sentimental or obvious.

Gary felt inspired to produce American Caravan after completing On the Road in America, another project that aired on the Sundance Channel.  He came up with this idea of having young Arabs visiting America during his years at USC Institute for Creative Technologies as their Strategic Director.  Layalina Productions, a public diplomacy initiative, funded it.  They produce public diplomacy programming that bridges the Arab-American divide.   The On the Road in America series, which started in 2004 and ended its third season in 2011, follows four young Arabs (a new cast in each season) during their visit to America.  “Invariably the journey changed their perceptions about America,” Gary said.  “I felt inspired to do the series and American Caravan after 9/11.”

Justin Henry with the Green Shiekh, Ajman, UAE.  Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media
Justin Henry with the Green Shiekh, Ajman, UAE. Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media

American Caravan takes viewers on the journey of six young Americans during their visit to the Middle East in the footsteps of the Arab Spring.  In this documentary, you will follow Chris Blim, Justin Henry, Adrienne Rusk, Miranda Mayo, Alix Liiv, and Dawan Owens during their exploration  and interaction with Arab youth in Tunisia, Egypt, Oman, the UAE and Lebanon.  Among other things, they learned how to pray in the Muslim way with the Green Sheikh, nephew of the ruler of Ajman.

Thom Tyson, Producer and the cast dressed as Arabs. Ajman, UAE.  Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media
Thom Tyson, Producer and the cast dressed as Arabs. Ajman, UAE. Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media

“They also experienced a mock burial to appreciate the value of what remains of their life,” Gary said.  He cast six young Americans who wanted to interact with and be inspired by Arab youth.  The cast’s point of view becomes ours and hopefully this will change a lot of American attitudes.  The cast often would interview fellow Arabs to learn more about their perspective and lives as Muslims.  “The cast and those who they met had open minds and were eager to make a difference,” said Gary.

Cast, crew, and Egyptian friends in front of a mural in Tahrir Square at American University, Cairo, Egypt.  Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media
Cast, crew, and Egyptian friends in front of a mural in Tahrir Square at American University, Cairo, Egypt. Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media

A graduate of Yale University, Gary has taught film production and screenwriting all over the world—both in the Middle East and at highly respected film schools like the American Film Institute (AFI)  and the University of Southern California (USC).   He is committed to helping others tell their stories to help them heal themselves and to reduce misunderstanding between human beings.  Gary also wanted to help Arabs tell their own stories although many of them have endured violence and turmoil.  From 2006 to 2008, he led teams of filmmakers to teach filmmaking, storytelling, and program development in Afghanistan for two weeks in each of three consecutive years.  Gary also served as a visiting instructor at the UNIVERSITÉ SAINT ESPRIT DE KASLIK for a year from 2013 to 2014.  “Many Arabs whom I taught had ‘fractured narrative’ from trauma, and they were able to heal themselves through storytelling by letting out the pain.”

The cast at Djem Coliseum, Tunisia. Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media
The cast at Djem Coliseum, Tunisia.
Photo: Courtesy of Visionaire Media

From watching American Caravan, Gary hopes to change some hearts and minds about the Arab world.  “We all share humanity, and this film shows deep moments of being human,” said Gary.  See another clip here: https://vimeo.com/126282838

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