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UT Student Filmmaker Honored with Travolta Award

Published: May 04, 2009

Before Alan Mehanna had even reached his teens, his parents recognized his passion for filmmaking. His family moved from their native Lebanon to the United States to give their son his best shot at success.

A decade later, Mehanna, a University of Tampa senior, is on the verge of making his family’s dream a reality.

On May 2, Mehanna became the first-ever recipient of the Travolta Family Inspiration Award – an honor established by actor John Travolta and his family to recognize a young filmmaker who has overcome adversity.

Mehanna’s latest film, dubbed “One Last Stand,” was screened recently at the Sunscreen Film Festival in the Tampa Bay area, where he received the award.

It is a fitting honor for the young filmmaker, who recalls the struggle of adapting to American culture in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, while also getting caught in the middle of conflicts taking place in his native country.

“When I look back at my life, I am in awe of how much I have overcome,” he said. “I have accomplished a lot thus far, but I have many more dreams that I still want to achieve.”

The idea for “One Last Stand” came about after Mehanna and his sister got caught in the middle of a war during a visit to Lebanon and had to evacuate. After Sept. 11, Mehanna says many of the people he considered friends turned against him, in some instances physically attacking him, because of his Arab heritage. It was through filmmaking that Mehanna was able to overcome these trials.

“I witnessed the chaos and devastation that was caused by vengeful people,” he said. “I realized that life is the most valuable thing, and the ability to love is the greatest gift God ever granted us.”

The film takes place in a world on the verge of a third world war and focuses on two people chosen by God to restart human history. Mehanna originally shot the 20-minute film for a narrative production class as part of his film media arts major at UT. He later redid the film over the course of seven months on a budget of $4,500 and cut the script down to 15 minutes.

With the help of several of his fellow UT film students as well as Tom Garrett, assistant professor of communication, Mehanna wrapped production in the fall. The film has since premiered at the Sunscreen Film Festival and is scheduled to be screened at this month’s Cannes Film Festival in France.