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A college professor travels to New York City to attend a conference and finds a young couple living in his apartment.

  • Tom McCarthy
  • Groundswell Productions
  • Next Wednesday Productions
  • Participant Media
Walter Vale is a sullen and lonely man: he works as an economics professor in Connecticut, teaching only one class - the same one he's taught for 20 years - ostensibly so he can work on his book. In reality he isn't writing a book; while he's 'co-authoring' with a tenure-tracked colleague, his connection is in name only. Nor does he want anything to do with it. Although he has no aptitude for it, his only desire is to learn to play the piano to feel connected to his deceased pianist wife. On a business trip into New York City, he finds two people living in the seldom-used apartment he has there: Syrian drummer Tarek Khalil and his girlfriend, Senegalese-born jewelry maker Zainab, who were duped by an acquaintance into believing they were renting the apartment. As Tarek and Zainab have nowhere to go, Walter allows them to stay in his apartment temporarily. Although Zainab feels uncomfortable around Walter, Tarek draws him into his life through their shared love of music and, especially, Tarek's African drumming. Their acquaintance evolves into genuine friendship and begins to reawaken Walter to life. A misunderstanding on the subway leads to Tarek's arrest and it comes out that Tarek and Zainab are illegal immigrants. After he is transferred to an immigration detention center in Queens, Walter hires an immigration lawyer and acts as liaison between Tarek and Zainab. Tarek's mother, Michigan based Mouna Khalil, comes to New York unexpectedly because she hasn't heard from her son in days. She, too, is in the U.S. illegally and cannot visit Tarek. Helping Tarek becomes Walter's new focus in life and his means to re-enter the world of the living.


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