Documentary about the history of Arab Indianapolis

Published: Last Updated on

The film “Arab Indianapolis: A Hidden History” produced by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Edward E. Curtis, is a film that talks about Indianapolis’ past with the Arab community and was screened at UIndy’s Schwitzer student center according to UIndy360. Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center of Ethics Lacey Davidson said that the film started as a blog for a community history project and moved into a full length documentary and is now a book. 

“In 2005, when I arrived in Indianapolis to take a new job, I had no idea that people like me had been living in the city since the 1800s. That hidden history inspired me to work with other Arab Americans to make a film that reveals our community’s origins and development,’ said Curtis in an article by statewide nonprofit Indiana Humanities. . “I hope that it makes everyone in attendance, no matter where they trace their roots, feel more at home in Indiana.” Davidson said that the film was a group collaboration between the Political Science, History, English, Religion departments as well as the Center for Ethics. The documentary was more focused on the Center of Ethics, he said, because it is in line with the University of Indianapolis mission. 

“Part of UIndy’s mission is to prepare students for their responsibilities in complex societies,” Davidson said. 

Davidson said that there are some good things that come with having a campus with vibrant life, but it is important to keep in mind the social, political and cultural context. 

“We’re really looking at the mission of the University of Indianapolis and seeing, how can the Ethics Center contribute to that through the programming? And one of the things that this documentary brings forth is understanding the complex nature of human migration in the United States, but specifically in Indianapolis, and how do we tell those stories in a way that honors those histories and also helps us understand the cultural, political and social context that we live in,” Davidson said. 

According to Indiana Humanities, the documentary was directed and produced by local filmmaker Becky Fisher and was filmed by owner of Chroma Productions and Emmy award winning videographer Vinnie Manganello. The article said that the film covers the new chapter in central Indiana with its diverse history. The documentary also covers the first Arab-speaking neighborhood to how Arab American food has had influence in Indianapolis.

The documentary discusses the first Arabic-speaking neighborhood in Indianapolis, as well the establishment of a prominent Arab American business on Monument Circle and the founding of the first known Arabic speaking Orthodox Christian location in Central Indiana,St. George Church in the 1920s. The service of Arab Americans in World War II and the election of Arab Americans to political offices in the Indiana Capitol, according to Indiana Humanities, were covered in the film along with the contributions of Arab Americans to medicine since the 1920s and the influence of Arab American food on menus throughout the city.

Davidson said that it is important to know how those things shape how the university interacts with the city. The university’s interaction with the city itself has shaped the experiences of other people who live in the city, Davidson said, as well as those who are not affiliated with UIndy and and who are.

“For example there’s students who are Arab,” Davidson said. “They can identify with this film and see there’s a rich history here, and that they’re a part of the story that we’re building so that anytime something’s hidden, or covered over or not highlighted, any chance to excavate that is going to help us understand our location and more than just ‘Where’s it on the map?’”

Recommended for You