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Towelhead

Release date: September 12, 2008
Directed by: Alan Ball
Written by: Alan Ball
Produced by: Alan Ball, Ted Hope
Running time: 116 minutes

Jasira (Summer Bishil), daughter of a Lebanese-American father (Peter Macdissi) and an American mother (Maria Bello), comes of age in the early 90's. When she unwittingly enters into a dangerous flirtation with her mother's boyfriend, her mother insists that Jasira move to the house of her father. Instead of being a solution, Jasira's move is a catalyst for crisis. Her interactions with the neighbors, a pregnant newlywed (Toni Collette) and an army reservist (Aaron Eckhart) yield startling, yet heart-wrenching and ultimately redeeming consequences.

Cast & Characters

Summer Bishil (Jasira Maroun), Peter Macdissi (Rifat Maroun), Maria Bello (Gail Monahan), Aaron Eckhart (Travis Vuoso), Toni Collette (Melina Hines), Matt Letscher (Gil Hines), Robert Baker (Mr. Joffrey), Carrie Preston (Evelyn Vuoso), Chase Ellison (Zack Vuoso), Lynn Collins (Thena Panos), Eugene Jones (Thomas Bradley), Shari Headley (Mrs. Bradley), Randy J. Goodwin (Mr. Bradley), Chris Messina (Barry)

Production Notes

When Alan Ball began to think of doing a feature his agent sent him Towelhead. From the minute he cracked the unpublished manuscript, the story struck Ball as both startlingly truthful and cinematic. “I read it over a weekend and fell in love with the world and the characters,” he recalls. “I found so many things about it compelling. It took me to so many places I didn’t expect. By turns, I thought it was horrifying, hilarious, touching, ugly and at the same time, wonderful and liberating. It was everything I look for in a story – I was drawn to the political aspects of the book and the humor of the book, which was so real and keenly observed.”

To play Melina, the neighbor who comes to Jasira’s rescue, Ball chose Toni Collette. Yet, He notes that even Melina isn’t all that gallant. “She’s a little flash of light in this dark world Jasira lives in, but she’s also self-righteous and bossy and she sort of drops the ball,” he says. “I always thought Toni was a great choice for her because she’s got such backbone and she’s so smart and so good at everything she does.”