new projects

Mohammad:RyanAkhi: Brothers Beyond Fate

In 2008 I created fran tarr productions dedicated to “Giving voice to teens surviving chaos and conflict.” My first documentary bethlehem to brooklyn: breaking the surface (b2b) was an Official Selection at the 2010 Hoboken International Film Festival where it was nominated for Best Documentary. My second documentary was brooklyn bridges- to bethlehem & back (bb). These documentaries demonstrate how using words to combat and describe their daily struggles, teens discover how a grassroots movement does empower the lives of children living in chaos and conflict. brooklyn bridges’ positive response led me to create breaking walls in 2011- a global arts activism program empowering youth to discover their voice and take their place on the world stage through the arts and face-to-face dialogue. Berlin was the community for our initial breaking walls workshop in July 2012. Over nine-days 16 new writer-performers from Bethlehem, Brooklyn and Berlin experienced writing-performing and face-to-face dialogue while exploring Berlin together.

My documentary work led to breaking walls that in-turn triggered my focus on my culminating documentary- Akhui- Brother Beyond Fate. I am in full-throttle editing mode on this compilation film using the most compelling moments from b2b, bb and new breaking walls 2012 Berlin footage. Akhi- Brothers Beyond Fate is the story of Mohammad, a Muslim teenage man in Bethlehem; and, Ryan, a Black teen in Brooklyn- both facing lives of daily chaos and conflict but don’t join a jihad or a gang- they take the risk to join a writing group spanning 5,000 miles discovering they possess the potential to ignite a grassroots movement for positive change and they take their place as creative leaders on the world stage. Witnessing Mohammad and Ryan move through their journey is a revelation and an inspiration. More

Untitled1Meet Mohammad. He lives in with his mother, father, two sisters and brother in Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, Occupied Territories.

“Living in a refugee camp is not easy especially if you are forced to live in one. Even though the camp is small and crowded, and every day you are fearful, I feel I have a responsibility to my family, my people and myself to create a better future. I am strong in contrast to the weakness of the situation in the camp. I have my goals that I want to achieve.

“Joining the documentaries makes me feel that I’m not alone. No matter if you are black or white, what language you speak, or which area you live in—WE are all humans and share the same interests and problems with few differences. I learned a lot from being a breaking walls facilitator. It is very important to find yourself—to discover what you are capable of doing, and look for the beauty in everything; then, you will be a person who truly knows himself.”

Untitled2Meet Ryan. He lives in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn with his grandmother, mother, sister and brother.

“Growing up in Brooklyn all these years has taught me to always expect the unexpected, especially with opportunities that come once in a lifetime. Being in these documentaries and now breaking walls is one of those opportunities.

“I’d never been out of Brooklyn, so the trips to Bethlehem in the Middle-East and then Berlin had me very excited. People in this world might look at me in the same light after all these experiences but it will not bother me because this whole Bethlehem to Brooklyn to Berlin experience has taught me that you should never judge people, because you never know what they carry on their shoulders, where they have been, or who they truly are. If people don’t talk to each other, they think the worst.”

Akhui- Brothers Beyond Fate intends to achieve three goals:

  • Reveal the resilience and power of teens throughout the
  • Trigger open, honest dialogue around the issues of misperceptions, intolerance and breaking the boundaries of expectations placed on at-risk youth
  • Create an ongoing platform for domestic and international change and connection for youth.

To achieve my goals I’ll implement the start small think big approach to creating a community through documentary. The initial steps involve a series grassroots screenings, panels in homes, schools, places of business and worship to gather valuable POVs from a variety of age, ethnic and religious groups. Next I will continue to nurture my relationships with UNESCO, PBS and Facing History & Ourselves who are interested in hosting screenings as well as using my first two documentaries as a component in Post-911 Tolerance curriculums and the United Nations Culture of Peace initiative. I am continuing to build a vibrant in-school program via the NYCDOE, and am pursuing an official NYCDOE Vendor Number and Contract. In addition Ahkui- Brothers Beyond Fate will initiate wider-community connections starting with a Irish Arts Center Collaboration in 2013. Finally I am pursuing a possible Enterprise Collaboration via Moodle.

The tactics I will employ include making full-use of my NYWIFT, NYC private and public school, friends and supporters connections and network for Akhui- Brothers Beyond Fate screenings and panels; our website and downloadable app to keep friends and supporters in the loop as well as build awareness; spread the word about our online teen literary, visual and music magazine; and make full use of social media such as Twitter and YouTube to build an audience.

With 52% of the world’s population under the age of 21, teens remain misunderstood and underrepresented. Coming-of-age in their world where there’s little safety and less peace is no easy-going task. Amid the chaos these young men and women struggle for a sense of normalcy, control, and the ideals they believe are right. As they navigate towards the bright, happy futures they desire, their choices are sometimes inspirational, sometimes bad and scary– demonstrating that coming-of-age and activism define and shape individual lives.

As social change sweeps across the Middle East, blasts across American TV screens and online media two unresolved issues till confront the youth who will soon be our movers, shakers and leaders: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the re-emergence of corrosive racism in the US. Akhui- Brothers Beyond Fate can galvanize positive change with its moral vision of two young men, strangers four years-ago- both tugged in many directions by haters, fakes and the “ubiquitous” everyone; yet, chose to travel a proactive rather than reactive path to transformation, role-modeling and leadership.

Akhi- Brothers Beyond Fate shakes up the stereotypes of Palestinian jihadis and African-American gangstas. The audience will get to know both these young men intimately as they see the shocking circumstances from which each comes and returns to on a daily basis. The audience will watch them navigate a threatening world, share their dreams, love of their families, and balance the push-and-pull of their peers as they become transformed through the process of writing and performing their original work. Akhi- Brothers Beyond Fate delves beneath the superficial renderings of the media, challenging the broad stroke view painted in print, TV and film, and can’t help but encourage the audience to wonder and marvel at how some human beings find the resiliency to channel their dark side into a mechanism to move forward.

Earth boyBeyond Fate

seven stories of friendship in turbulent times

Beyond Fate explores the gritty, realistic role of friendship in the lives of contemporary teenagers in Bogotá, Fallujah, the Gaza Strip, Kabul, Monrovia, Oakland, and Pristina. Coming-of-Age in their world where there’s little safety and less peace is no easy task. Amid the chaos, these young men and women struggle for a sense of normalcy, control, and the ideals they believe are right. As they navigate towards the bright, happy futures they desire, their choice of friends to lean on is sometimes inspirational, sometimes bad and scary–demonstrating that friendship defines and shapes individual lives. More

Beyond Fate is a testament to the harsh truth that horrific incidents happen to people just going about their everyday lives, and speaks to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of hopelessness. It exposes friendship as an important component of the contemporary human journey– a journey far deeper than sound bites or stereotypes. The Beyond Fate storyline come from extensive research and interviews with recent Colombian, Liberian, Kosvian and Palestinian teenage immigrants; the Afghan Junior Olympic Girls Soccer Team; Dr. Rose MacCauley of the World Health Organization in Liberia; Captain Sherry Galloway–US Army Afghanistan; Sgt. Dennis Owens-US Army Iraq; Rameen Javid of the Afghan Communicator; Osama Altayi of the Iraq Embassy to the US; Dr. AbdelFattah Abu-Srour, Director of the Al-Rowwad Cultural & Theater Training Center in Palestine; and Mr. Hansford of the Liberian Consulate. The Beyond Fate storylines also emerge from Fran Tarr’s work in these countries. In the summer of 2006 Fran traveled to the Mid-East teaching playmaking to Israeli and Palestinian teens. This summer of 2007 she will return to the Mid-East to continue this work; as well as, teach playmaking to young men and women in Monrovia, Liberia.

The seven one-hour docudramas written by Fran Tarr will use a separate director for each of the seven stories. This approach will allow for consistent editorial direction, while matching passion for the material with each director’s personal style. Bringing an individual sensitivity and vision to each story, locale and issue. Yet the unifying theme of young men and women as relevant, living individuals swept up in world events, will enable the directors to keep the storyline going from piece to piece in the same way The Road To Guantanamo does; and, the PBS series New Americans, A & E’s Intervention, Oxygen’s Who Cares About Girls?, and HBO’s LifeStories: Families in Crisis do. Yet Beyond Fate will take a fictional approach within real events, blending 90% dramatic writing with 10% documentary testimonials and footage for a fresh view of this underrepresented voice in the world’s population. The seven stories will be filmed using digital format and small crews. The main characters will be cast from professional actors from each country and the US, with smaller roles being cast within their ethnic community.

* Rene and Marco, both 17, search for money, respect and a way “to take care of their Moms” amid the poverty and hopelessness of their Bogotá Barrio. They find their remedy–apprenticing himself or herself to an assassin. Ashamed of the blood on their hands, newly elected Presidente Uribe’s message to “take back Columbia’s soul,” enthralls Marco. He persuades Rene to join him in Uribe’s new National Police Force. The boys relish their new found respect, and the hope they bring to a rural village until they come face-to-face with the guerillas that provide the ultimate test of Marco and Rene’s desire for redemption.

* Volatile, street-savvy, African-American, Swan Malachi, 17, secretly longs to be anywhere but inside a California jail and is taken under the wing of a strong Oakland community leader. But when Swan’s mentor is brutally murdered, he must stand against his own brother, Dax, in his pursuit of justice against the legal system.

* While the Israelis construct their “Wall of Protection,” around the Gaza Strip, Akim, 15, looses his mother to cancer and must move into his friend, Raza’s, apartment. The boys sit with Raza’s fearful Palestinian family surrounded by bullet-ridden walls, and insulate themselves by spinning tales of their “dream” to be wrestlers at the Junior Olympics. Their shining moment arrives when Akim and Raza win precious spots on the team but in their race to share the good news the boys run right into a Hamas ambush of an Israeli Patrol.

* Alia, 17, secretly defies her traditional family and enrolls in one of Kabul’s blossoming girls schools. Despite the humiliation of sitting with children in an elementary classroom, Alia is promoted quickly through the grades until she lands next to Zarmina in a seventh grade class. When Zarmina’s engaged to a man three times her age, Alia battles to save her friend both emotionally and physically, while keeping her family’s respect intact and her own future on track.

* At age thirteen Grace is kidnapped by Liberian rebels after they butcher her family on the outskirts of Monrovia. Raped and terrified she’s enslaved by a rebel leader. Now 16, Grace and her three year-old son, Solomon, link up with another shell-shocked rape victim Lady, 13. Struggling to care for these two children–Grace fights for food, water, a sense of normalcy and the return of her dignity in the new peaceful chaos of Liberia.

* Ifran, 16, and his Serbian family have recently returned from exile in Australia to their rural Kosovo farm, only to find it “owned” by a local Albanian family. Unable to reclaim their heritage, they move to an UN-protected enclave in Pristina. Here Ifran studies diligently to get into University abroad, joins an rabid anti-Albanian gang; and, falls in love with Rena, an Albanian. How can he follow his heart when their relationship calls into question everything he hates and blindly hates him in return?

* In Fallujah, Amir, 17, represses his grief and desperation. His father left to join his Republican Guard unit only to be killed in the American race to Baghdad. As his family hovers just above starvation, Amir resents his mother’s insistence he continue his high school education and earn a degree in engineering. Then his friend, Nabil, covertly gets Amir a job as a “fixer” for the American Fourth ID forces. Amir dodges harrowing dangers and fear until he meets a Lieutenant from Kansas and Amir’s life begins to return to normal. But Amir’s new father figure is an anathema to Nabil.

Beyond Fate is a series for family audiences and appropriate for venues such as A&E, BBC, Channel 4, the Discovery Channel, HBO, the History Channel, PBS, Showtime and TNT whose previous work present history through the actions of vibrant individuals living their day-to-day lives under tough conditions. Beyond Fate also offers the potential for reaching-out to young audiences via the Internet. First, is a Beyond Fate website with Chat Room opportunities; second, the young characters from each story can “rent” a home on Second Life where young audiences can walk-in and discuss the issues from the storyline; third, each character from a particular country can open a My Space site where, again, young audiences can ask questions and open discussions with the character about their life; and finally, 3 minute Pod Casts can be created for promoting Beyond Fate stories to be viewed on iPods and cell-phones.

During her research for Beyond Fate, Rameen Javid told Fran, “The world needs to see the dignity and brilliance of our children; and, that their human dignity, spirit and trust are not easily destroyed by dark forces of any kind.” This is a much-needed message for our times.

Fran Tarr’s Beyond Fate/Decent Girl

Fran | MySpace Video

Speak Reach Peace OutSpeak Reach Peace Out

One of the richest aspects of my life is being in a classroom. Working with kids I forget the walls, loose track of noises streaming in from outside. What I am aware of are the faces, faces filled with eagerness, curiosity, even uncomprehending expressions; and I think, okay girl- start your engines— guide these young minds to the next level of understanding and success. In return young men and women consistently brighten, enlighten and challenge my view of the world and myself. This phenomenon has occurred from Chicago’s South Side to Denver to all five boroughs of NYC, but how did I discover teen voices across the world? More

In 2005 my perceptions got a huge shake-up. I was moved by the life experiences of Harun, a Yugoslavian immigrant, I met while working at Queens Academy High School. Harun’s open, direct honesty about the struggles he and his friends endured for safety, education and a voice in Yugoslavian society before Slobodan Milosovic lost power was riveting. As his Queens classmates listened to Harun’s original monologue they were awed and inspired by the resilience he illustrated and its resonance in their own lives. All this triggered a curiosity in me– to uncover how teens still living in trouble spots cope.

I began to volunteer leading playwriting workshops in Palestine, Israel and Liberia. These amazing experiences brought me to the realization that with 52% of the world’s population under the age of 21 teens, you remain misunderstood and underrepresented.

Speak Reach Peace Out will give voice to those who usually remain unheard; yet, who possess a unique understanding of how the world is changing– all the while creating international dialogue.

Coming-of-Age in your world where there’s little safety and less peace is no easy-going task. Amid the chaos these you struggle for a sense of normalcy, control, and the ideals you believe are right. As you navigate towards the bright, happy futures you desire, your choices are sometimes inspirational, sometimes bad and scary– demonstrating that choice and activism define and shape individual lives. In a world rocked by devastation–tsunamis, armed conflagrations and under-recognized conflicts– you are rising above the challenges through friendship and communication in your quest for peace, tolerance and dignity.

It’s Time 4 U 2

+ Submit your original writing, photography and music

+ Locate the exact county information about the contributing student-artists

+ Access books and articles pertinent to your issue

+ Discover how you and teens across the world are much more alike than different

B a Part of Speak Reach Peace Out

Next Steps for brooklyn bridges

discover your place.

An integral component of bethlehem to brooklyn: breaking the surface and brooklyn bridges- to bethlehem & back is the writing/performance workshops designed and led by Fran Tarr. Through their writing, it becomes clear teenagers share a fear of failure, peer pressure, and an uncertain future, overwhelmed by the call to revolutionize the environments in which they live. Through performing their writing, teenagers demonstrate that they and their peers are not victims or predators but an integral, vulnerable part of the solution, dispelling misunderstandings and rectifying misconceptions.

* The pen is mightier than a stereotype *

Brooklyn & Bethlehem (Palestinian) teens write Contemplation in Liberia Brooklyn & Jerusalem (Israeli) teens brainstorm

Social Justice * Tolerance * Finding Your Voice * Arts Activism

Fran welcomes the opportunity to design and implement a writing/performance for your students and/or community—pairing up teens in troubled spots around the world with teens from Bethlehem & Brooklyn. Contact Fran directly at and review the complete breaking walls website at

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