Review: ‘Abe,’ starring Noah Schnapp, Seu Jorge, Dagmara Dominiczyk and Arian Moayed

April 17, 2020

by Carla Hay

Salem Murphy, Tom Mardirosian, Arian Moayed, Noah Schnapp, Dagmara Dominczyk, Daniel Oreskes and Mark Margolis in “Abe” (Photo courtesy of Blue Fox Entertainment)

“Abe”

Directed by Fernando Grostein Andrade

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the dramatic film “Abe” has a diverse cast of middle-class characters representing white Americans; immigrants from Palestine and Israel; an Afro-Brazilian; and various other ethnicities in minor roles.

Culture Clash: The movie’s title character is a 12-year-old aspiring chef who’s caught between two cultures: Israeli Jewish on his mother’s side and Palestinian Muslim on his father’s side.

Culture Audience: “Abe” will appeal primarily to viewers who like heartfelt, realistic family dramas or foodie movies.

Noah Schnapp and Seu Jorge in “Abe” (Photo courtesy of Blue Fox Entertainment)

“Abe” is a delightfully charming drama that tells the story of a 12-year-old New Yorker named Abe Solomon Odeh, who has dreams of becoming a chef and is torn between between the two worlds of his American parents’ interfaith marriage. His mother, Rebecca (played by Dagmara Dominczyk), is Jewish and of Israeli descent. His father, Amir (played by Arian Moayed), was raised Muslim and is of Palestinian decent. Abe’s grandparents who live nearby add to the religious tension because they’re more adamant than Abe’s parents that Abe choose one religion to practice, and they try to convince Abe that their respective religion is the best for him.

On the Muslim side are Amir’s parents Aida (played by Salem Murphy) and Salim (played by Tom Mardirosian), while on the Jewish side are Rebecca’s recently widowed father Benjamin (played by Mark Margolis) and Rebecca’s brother Ari (played by Daniel Oreskes). When they get together for meals at Rebecca and Amir’s home in Brooklyn, the conversation usually ends up in arguments over religion and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Abe says in the movie that the two sides of his family rarely agree on anything. For example, with falafel: “One of my grandmas makes it with chickpeas, and the other with fava beans.” As Abe says in the beginning of the film, the Muslim side of his family wants to call him Avarham, while the Jewish side wants to call him Ibrahim. Abe just wants to be known as Abe.

As for Abe’s passions, he says: “I enjoy food. I can’t resist it. The only thing I like better than food? Cooking.”

Abe is a loner whose social life mostly exists online with “friends” he’s never met in person, although some of the people who comment on his social-media posts are people he knows from school. He spends a lot of time posting his thoughts and fantasy meals on Instagram. As a budding foodie, he’s constantly looking for new recipes.

One day, while surfing the Internet, Abe stumbles across some articles about an Afro-Brazilian street chef name Chico Catuaba (played by Seu Jorge), who’s gotten media attention for his Afro-Brazilian fusion of falafel. Chico happens to work at a street market food stall in Brooklyn, where Abe tracks him down and meets him. Chico gives Abe a free acarajé as a parting gift.

Meanwhile, Abe’s parents have enrolled him in a kids’ summer day camp for cooking. But when Abe arrives, he finds out that it really is a kiddie program, where the emphasis is on pretty colors instead of ingredients. As soon as Abe hears that the cooking camp won’t allow the students to use knives, he bolts and makes his way to the other place where Chico works: a co-op kitchen, where Chico is the head chef.

Abe has become a fan of Chico, but Chico and some of his co-workers are very reluctant to let Abe hang around. Abe brings Chico a ramen taco as a gift, which Chico tastes and immediately says that the taco is “terrible.” After much pleading and persistence from Abe, Chico relents and says Abe can become by the kitchen every day to help out for a few hours a day. However, instead of letting Abe help cook right away, Chico tests Abe’s commitment by having him do menial tasks, such as cleaning dishes and taking out garbage.

Of course, child labor laws in the U.S. make it illegal to have a 12-year-old kid working these kinds of hours and with no pay. However, where Chico works seems to be the kind of co-op kitchen where the laws aren’t necessarily followed and it’s not a big concern if the employees are legally authorized to work there or not.

It should come as no surprise that Chico turns from gruff supervisor to caring mentor and eventually gives Abe a chance to cook with Chico and the rest of the kitchen crew. But how much longer can Abe keep it a secret that he’s skipping cooking camp and heading off to a kitchen to work with adults?

Meanwhile, there’s mounting tension at home over religion, since Abe has reached the age when he has to decide if he wants a bar mitzvah. The dilemma is compounded because Abe’s father Amir is an atheist, while Abe’s mother Rebecca is a religious Jew. Therefore, Abe is confused over who he should please: his atheist father, his Muslim relatives or his Jewish relatives. A few things happen (which won’t be revealed here) that change the family dynamic.

Working with Chico and his fusion style of cooking inspires Abe to make a Jewish-Muslim Thanksgiving fusion meal. The menu includes hummus and challah bruschetta; turkey with matzo pits and olive stuffing; falafel bits in tahini dill; and fattoush salad with garlic matzo. What happens at the meal causes the family to confront deep-seated issues.

As the central character Abe, Schnapp gives a wonderfully nuanced performance that is realistic at portraying his adolescent angst without being melodramatic. Dominiczyk and Moyaed turn in solid performances as Abe’s bickering but loving parents. Seu Jorge is also very good as Chico, Abe’s unexpected mentor. And as the wisecracking Ari, Daniel Oreskes brings comic relief to the film and some of the movie’s most memorable lines. (When he looks at Abe’s Thanksgiving menu, Ari says “Hummus and challa? That sounds like a porno.”)

“Abe” is the first narrative feature film from Brazilian director Fernando Grostein Andrade, who previously directed the documentaries “Wandering Heart” and “Quebrando o Tabu.”Grostein Andrade knows from personal experience what it’s like to come from a family of two very different religions, since he has European Jewish grandparents and he grew up Catholic. It’s probably why the sensitive issue of a child growing up in an interfaith household is handled with authenticity and respect.

And as for the delicious food scenes in the movie, they should cause some instant cravings. There’s nothing fancy or complicated about “Abe” (written by Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader), but the story is unique enough for it to stand out from most other independent films about families. Anchored by an appealing performance by Schnapp, “Abe” is an emotionally genuine movie that’s worth seeking out if you like stories about people chasing their dreams despite dealing with a lot of personal turmoil.

Blue Fox Entertainment released “Abe” on digital and VOD on April 17, 2020.

2018 CMA Awards: presenters announced

November 12, 2018

The following is a press release from the Country Music Association and ABC:

Country artist Jimmie Allen, nationally syndicated personality Bobby Bones, country artist Kane Brown, ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars’” Sharna Burgess, model and actress Olivia Culpo, Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’” Mackenzie Foy, country artists Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Dustin Lynch, Martina McBride and Carly Pearce, singer/actor Dennis Quaid, ABC’s “American Idol” judge Lionel Richie, actor Noah Schnapp, singer/songwriter, actress and producer Rita Wilson and country artist Trisha Yearwood are set to present at “The 52nd Annual CMA Awards.” Country Music’s Biggest Night, hosted for the 11th consecutive year by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, airs live from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Wednesday, Nov. 14 (8:00 – 11:00 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network.
CMA Awards Vocal Group of the Year nominee LANCO will also host the pre-telecast portion of the night. They will be introduced to the stage by CMA’s inaugural KixStart Artist Scholarship recipients Kassi Ashton, Travis Denning and Jameson Rodgers. During the pre-telecast, the winner for Musician of the Year will be awarded, as well as the winners of the previously announced broadcast awards categories.

In addition to Dan + Shay’s live performance on the CMA Awards, the duo will also deliver an encore performance of “Speechless” for Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers exclusively on Xfinity On Demand. Immediately following the telecast, customers can access the encore performance simply by saying “Show me Dan + Shay” into their X1 Voice Remote. For more information on Xfinity X1, visit Xfinity.com/x1.

Don’t miss Facebook Live interviews with your favorite Country artists on CMA’s Facebook page Monday, Nov. 12, and Tuesday, Nov. 13, from 10:00 AM – 4:00 p.m. EST as artists stop by the CMA Awards Radio Remote in Nashville.
Previously announced performers for the CMA Awards include Lauren Alaina, Jason Aldean with Miranda Lambert, Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley with Brothers Osborne, Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay, Florida Georgia Line with Bebe Rexha, Midland, Kacey Musgraves, Old Dominion, Paisley, Pistol Annies, Thomas Rhett, Ricky Skaggs, Chris Stapleton with Maren Morris and Mavis Staples, Underwood, Keith Urban and Brett Young, as well as special appearances by Lindsay Ell, Vince Gill, Sierra Hull, Chris Janson, Ashley McBryde, David Lee Murphy, Jon Pardi, Carson Peters, Marty Stuart, and Cole Swindell.

CMA sat down with the five New Artist of the Year nominees and the people closest to them to learn more about them and their journey to the CMA Awards. To view all five full episodes featuring Alaina, Combs, Janson, Midland and Young, please visit CMAawards.com/new-artist-nominees.

“The 52nd Annual CMA Awards” is a production of the Country Music Association. Robert Deaton is the executive producer, Gary Halvorson is the director and David Wild is the head writer.

For more information on “The 52nd Annual CMA Awards,” please visit CMAawards.com and follow CMA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Fans can listen to playlists featuring CMA Awards nominees and performers, on Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify, and Vevo. To celebrate “The 52nd Annual CMA Awards,” the official merchandise line, featuring tees, sweatshirts and other gifts, is now available online.

About CMA Awards

The first “CMA Awards Banquet and Show” was held in 1967. The following year, the CMA Awards was broadcast for the first time – making it the longest running, annual music awards program on network television. The CMA Awards have aired on ABC since 2006. ABC is the network home of the CMA Awards and CMA’s other two television properties, “CMA Fest” and “CMA Country Christmas.”

Follow ABC Publicity on Twitter and Instagram.
Facebook: @cma
Twitter: @CountryMusic
Instagram: @cma
Hashtag: #CMAawards

‘Stranger Things’ team backstage at the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards

January 30, 2017

by Carla Hay

The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards took place on January 29, 2017, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

“STRANGER THINGS”

SAG Award win:

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

Here is what these SAG Award winners said backstage in the SAG Awards press room.

Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Millie Bobby Brown, Noah Schnapp, and Caleb McLaughlin at the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles.
“Stranger Things” cast members Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Millie Bobby Brown, Noah Schnapp and Caleb McLaughlin at the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW

How strange is it to have this award?

Caleb McLaughlin: Oh my gosh, it’s a blessing. I was sitting there. I was waiting for “The Crown,” “Game of Thrones,” all of the great competition that we had. And then I just heard, “Oh my gosh.” I just heard the “s,” and I knew it was us, and I just started jumping.

Finn Wolfhard: I’ll say something very quickly. I looked to Natalia, I looked to Millie. I was like, “Guys, I’m going to sleep. See you later.” And I laid my head on the rest. And then they were, like, “Stranger Things” …

Millie Bobby Brown: And it was actually funny because the Duffers, the [“Stranger Things”] directors, we thought we had no chance. It is so incredible to be in such an incredible category with so many talented, incredible shows that have worked so hard. I really want to thank everyone I didn’t get to say on stage because David Harbour just rocked it, but I just want to say thank you so much to every single nominee in that category.

Noah Schnapp: Mr. [Matthew] Modine actually told me that it’s like it’s already like winning when you get nominated, and then being able to win after being nominated is just the feeling, the rush; it’s just such a blessing.

Gaten Matarazzo: Yeah, it really is just a great opportunity to be here, and the great thing about it is that we’re in our first season. We are in our first season of this show, and we just won this award. And it’s the whole cast, and they called our name, and I’m like, “How the hell? Like what? You’re kidding me!” And Dave’s speech was just amazing, and I could listen to that a hundred times. It was just a phenomenal job. Thank you to just everyone and David Harbour. It’s exciting.

You’re all so young. What would you say to kids who aspire to be actors?

McLaughlin: I would say just keep striving for your dreams and never give up. Don’t believe anyone that puts you down. Just keep going because you’re your own person, and you have to just keep doing it. Just keep going.

Wolfhard: My answer to that would be keep trying. Every actor has been in the position, well not every actor. Some actors like us got lucky with this, but some actors don’t get lucky, and they work their whole lives to be on a show like this. I’ve only been acting for five years, four years. Some actors have been acting their entire life, because we’re not old. That sounded awful. Sorry. Not all on the older side. We’ve only been on this planet for 14 years. I would just say keep trying; keep auditioning for stuff.

Brown: I’ve always thought just go into an audition room thinking you haven’t got the job, and that’s really bad advice but to me that really works. And when I went into “Stranger Things,” I thought, “I really am not going to get this. I mean, there’s so many talented … 306 girls, I think, auditioned for Eleven.” And I’m just like, “It’s to be going the same audition as them,” so I just thought, “I’m going to get this.”

Schnapp: So my answer would be … everyone says this but it’s really true: Just never give up and stay motivated keep trying. One day you’re going to get it if you love it. Just go after it, because if you love it, put your heart into it and your passion. One day it’ll come.

Matarazzo: So mine is to say that tonight really proves that kids can be good actors too, because there are a lot of things that a lot of people give a lot of stereotypes saying kids aren’t good actors because they don’t have experience. But it’s not about experience. It’s about your will to do what you love, and it’s about your passion for it. It is about how much you really want to do this, because you can really just do amazing things, no matter how long you’ve been on this planet.

So if any kid out there that says they aren’t as good as someone because they’re older, they are wrong because age does not matter no matter how old you are. You can be a hundred years old in there [he points to his head] even if you’re 9 years old. That’s what I have to say. Any kid can do amazing things.

David, you got very emotional in your speech. How long did you take for you prepare it?

David Harbour: I didn’t expect us to win at all, actually, because we’re the newcomers, and there’s a lot of kids in the show, and it’s a strange show to give an acting award. I think I’m so proud of this cast, and I think it’s well-deserved. I think the work that these guys are doing is so extraordinary, but I did not think we were going to win. I did know that if we did win, I’m very bad at improvisation, as the rest of the cast can tell you. So I did not want to go up there with nothing to say, so I did write this speech.

And it’s gone through many iterations. I’ve had a lot of feelings and thoughts this last week, and I wanted to express it in some way that dealt with what we do through our art and also the craft of acting. And I feel like in our society now, it’s important to remember that acting is a craft, and that this is a guild, and it is something worthy of study, and it’s something worthy of hard work and dedication. It’s not about how popular you are; it’s not about how many “likes” you get on things. I see some trends in our society going a certain way, and I think acting is, at least for my life, has been a very important component about self-expression that is very worthy of a guild. And so I wanted the speech really to be about that.

Had you run the speech by your castmates? It looked Winona Ryder was hearing it for the first time.

Harbour: I didn’t see her reaction. Actually we were at dinner the other night, and it was Cara [Buono] and the teens and myself. And I was like, “Guys, I want to say this kind of crazy speech. Can I run it by you? And Charlie [Heaton] was like, “No, no you’ll ruin it. You’ll jinx it.” But finally we beat him into submission. And I did do it for them.

But it even changed last night, based on the protests that are going on at the airports and all this stuff that’s going down. I started to change it some more, but they did help me, and they did reassure me that it was an okay thing to say and that it wasn’t pretentious,  and that I could say it. So I was very appreciative of their feedback.