Fremont in the backdrop of a film about an Afghan translator

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FREMONT — Ever since Charlie Chaplin shot “The Tramp” in Niles when silent movies reigned over 100 years ago, the movie scene here has become almost non-existent.

Although installments of several movies have been shot in the town from time to time, it’s rare for a movie to focus so heavily on Fremont – until now.

This month, film crews shot scenes around the city for a film with the succinct working title “Fremont” – a fictionalized story that depicts slices of life in the diverse immigrant paradise that is the Bay Area, especially Fremont.

“It’s a low-budget independent feature,” Rachael Fung, producer at Fremont the Movie, LLC, said in an interview last week.

“This is a woman who was a translator in Afghanistan for US troops, who has now moved to Fremont, California,” Fung said.

Many Afghan translators and others who worked with the United States and other allied forces in Afghanistan attempted to flee the country in the years before and after the Taliban regained control of the country last August. fearing to be killed.

Many Afghans resettled to Fremont and other East Bay towns in waves in the decades following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and more arrived last year after the fall of Kabul in the hands of the Taliban.

The film is based on research that writer and director Babak Jalali did on Afghan translators who came to the United States, Fung said. The area was chosen for filming in part because of its concentration of people of Afghan descent.

Fung said the main character starts working at one of the fortune cookie factories in San Francisco.

“It’s basically a film partly about the immigrant experience, but also in general, that at the end of the day everyone is looking for love, everyone is looking to be happy, everyone is looking for a good cup of coffee,” Fung said. .

“So it’s kind of about trying to draw similarities between all the different people that are in the Bay Area, celebrating the diversity of the Bay Area. It’s a slice of film on the life of the region,” she said.

Fung said filming is happening throughout the month in Fremont and other Bay Area locations, including San Francisco.

Some local businesses have already been the scene of filming, including the Mission Peak Lodge hotel in Mission San Jose and Dino’s Family restaurant in Centerville, near the part of town known as “Little Kabul.”

Another shoot took place at Afghan Awasana Kabob, a small restaurant that serves home-style Afghan dishes and breads in the Centerville area near Cabrillo, run by Shafah Arsala, and his mother and father, Wazhma Arsala and Khushal Arsala.

FREMONT, CALIFORNIA – MAY 14: Khushal Arsala of Fremont carries kabob into the kitchen at Afghan Awasana Kabob in Fremont, Calif. on Saturday, May 14, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

Khushal Arsala said he and his family were “happy and excited” about the film for two reasons.

“First, it is the story of a struggling Afghan immigrant who is a newcomer. Someone who is new to the country and facing challenges, and hopefully finding their way,” he said.

“And the second is that they chose this restaurant,” he said.

He said it was good to see a project “bringing Afghan history back into the limelight” months after the fall of Kabul and the withdrawal of US troops.

“Afghanistan is becoming like a forgotten history, you know, because of the other crises in the rest of the world, Ukraine and others,” he said. “We are ignored or sidelined very quickly,” he added.

“But Afghans, we also stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. It reminds me of when my family emigrated from Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion,” he said.

“A movie, or an article, or news or anything that covers Afghanistan or the Afghan issue, tells us that we have not been forgotten,” he said.

“The history of immigration and settlement in Fremont is a natural fit to be filmed here locally,” Mayor Lily Mei said in a statement.

“It’s always exciting to hear about film activity in our community, and the city’s permit program was intentionally designed to help promote film activity not only for large productions, but also for small ones like this one,” Mei added.

Earlier this month, some photos of a woman riding a bike and driving a car took place on some streets in Niles and nearby areas, including Niles Boulevard.

FREMONT, CALIFORNIA – MAY 14: A film set in Fremont centering on an Afghan woman will be shot at Afghan Awasana Kabob in Fremont, Calif. on Saturday, May 14, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)
FREMONT, CALIFORNIA – MAY 14: Fremont is the main setting for an independent film being shot this month, centering on an Afghan woman who comes to town after serving as a translator for US troops. Part of the film was to be shot at a local restaurant, Afghan Awasana Kabob. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

David Kiehn, who runs the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, which highlights the area’s role in the silent film era, said he walked around the neighborhood last week to see preparations for filming .

“It’s nice that people are considering Fremont and actually enjoying its interesting atmosphere,” Kiehn said. “I’m interested to see how the movie pans out when it’s finally ready.”

Arsala of Afghan Restaurant also said he hoped the film would do a good job showing the area.

“We live in a beautiful part of the country where we all live side by side,” he said.

Fung said that was part of the film crew’s goal.

“We chose Fremont because we recognize the diversity that exists in Fremont,” she said. “It’s something that for our whole team is important, for us to represent all kinds of people, both on and off screen.”

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