Drama, Romance, Faith

Ben & Ara

by Nnegest Likke

Feature | 84:04 | Country of Origin: U.S.A. | Country of Filming: U.S.A. | 2015 | English Language


Ben, a passionately agnostic PhD student, falls behind in his dissertation and is surprised to find a muse in Ara, a devout Muslim. Ben and Ara soon fall in love but grapple with differences in their core beliefs and lifestyle choices. They discover that when two cultures touch each other, the consequences can be magical and tragic.

Programmer’s Words:

Ben & Ara is a rather straight-forward film in both style and subject matter, a romantic comedy-drama with a classical focus on character and story. This is precisely the type of movie that Hollywood seems to be abandoning, which opens up the space for a low-budget indie like Ben & Ara to talk about issues of national importance through narrative storytelling. The outline is Rom-com 101: Ben is a struggling PhD student in Philosophy, living in an open relationship with his girlfriend, when he meets Ara, a Muslim woman in the same program who is much more together academically but struggling in the area of romance. The two become friends and eventually lovers and have to deal with their differing values around relationships and life. Written by Joseph Baird and directed by Nnegest Likke, Ben & Ara may feel like a traditional genre piece in which two opposites attract and their ultimate coming together represents social differences being overcome, but it reveals itself to be far smarter and more complex. It manages to present two characters who are in many ways “deviant” from American cultural norms (Ben as a non-monogamist, Ara as a religious and practicing Muslim) and avoid both idolatry and demonization. As Likke describes the story, “the characters get the chance to learn about and experience each other’s cultures and different ways of life and belief systems. Ben & Ara is a very important film in today’s political climate where ‘Muslim’ is synonymous with ‘terrorist’ and Africa is still portrayed in the media as being backward and uncivilized.”
by Marc Raymond

About the director

NNEGEST LIKKE is a passionate filmmaker with 10 years of experience working as a professional writer/director in Hollywood. Early in her career, she caught the attention of a top Hollywood film producer who optioned one of her screenplays after reading it. The film was never produced, but Nnegest took his interest in her script as a sign to keep writing. As a means of earning a living while writing specs scripts, Nnegest got her teaching credentials and taught English, History and Drama for 4 years at a Los Angeles high school. While on the job, she discovered a new passion for mentoring at-risk youth which she continues to do today.

What is your film about?

‘Ben & Ara’ is about an agnostic man and a Muslim woman who fall in love but grapple with their differences in faith, culture and lifestyles.

Much of our audience will be involved in the arts in one form or another. What’s one part of making your film that you think other artists could really relate to?

‘Ben & Ara’ is a passion project that was created by a couple of struggling actors who wanted to do something for themselves rather than wait around for someone to hire them. Making a feature length film with the budget of a short film seemed like an impossible task at first, but once we put our minds to it, the universe started to move in the direction of helping us realize our dreams. I think the idea of fighting against all odds to create something out of nothing is one key thing that artists can relate to.

If someone is looking at the festival listings and doesn’t know what to see, why should they come to see your film?

‘Ben & Ara’ is a film worth seeing if you’re interested in being stimulated intellectually. You might have to do some thinking and ponder a few interesting questions about life!

Screening Info

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 10 | 3:45pm – 5:11pm


Deutsche Schule- Classroom 2 (C2)

Screenings / Awards

The African Movie Academy Awards | Port Harcourt , Nigeria

June 11, 2016 | Best Diaspora Feature

Ecrans Noirs Film Festival | Yaounde, Cameroon

July 22, 2016 | Best Foreign Film

The African Film Festival | Houston, United States

July 2, 2016  | Best Actress

Festival International du Film PanAfricain de Cannes | Cannes, France

April 15, 2016  | Best Film

Winter Film Awards | New York, NY, United States

February 24, 2016 | Best Picture

San Diego Black Film Festival | San Diego, CA, United States

January 29, 2016 | Best Actress

Nevada Women’s Film Festival | Las Vegas, NV, United States

March 25, 2016 | Best Director

Cameroon International Film Festival | Buea, Cameroon

April 30, 2016 | Best Cameroon Film

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