After years of work, two filmmakers will celebrate the premiere of their work that they hope will help catch a killer.
The world premiere for “The Price of Honor” documentary film will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 7 at Lakewood Theater of Dallas, 1825 Abrams Road. Tickets are available online at thepriceofhonorfilm.com. VIP tickets are sold out, but general admission tickets are available for $12.
“We’re putting the finishing touches on the film to correct the sound, color and other minor details,” said Neena Nejad, co-director of the film. “We’re trying not to get too nervous as the premiere date nears.”
Co-directors Nejad and Xoel Pamos of Smart Lips Productions have spent more than two years researching and making their new film documentary, “The Price of Honor.” Nejad, a native of Iran, said the movie would reveal new details about the murders of Sarah and Amina Said, who were killed in a premeditated “honor killing” by their father Yaser Said.
An honor killing is the practice in which another member murders a family member in efforts to defend the family honor. Nejad said honor killings are popular in many cultures and directed mostly against women and girls but have also been extended to men. An estimated 20,000 people are victims of this practice every year.
“We originally wanted to do a documentary about honor killings, especially that they’re being done in the states. The more we studied this story, the more we found that there were so many loose ends, and we saw that it was a story in and of itself,” Nejad said. “We’re both involved in human rights, and we’d been reading about honor killings so much in the news, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But we really wanted to highlight that its still happening in this day and age and in the United States.”
On Jan. 1, 2008, the bodies of Amina Said, 18 and Sarah Said, 17 were found in a taxi left at the Omni Mandalay Hotel car park in Irving. Amina, who had been shot twice, died instantly from a shattered spinal cord. Sarah had been shot nine times and lived long enough to call 911. She told the dispatched that her father had shot her and her sister. Near the time of their death, the girls lived in Lewisville.
After their death, classmates said the girls often came to school with welts and bruises. Tensions in the home rose to a height during Christmas 2007 when their father learned that both girls had American boyfriends, and he pulled a gun on them. Their mother, Patricia Said, ran away with them to another state, but the girls returned only to be killed shortly after.
Yaser Said, who fled the crime scene, is still at large and remains on the FBI Most Wanted List. Pamos said the film analyzes and discredits the theory of Yaser fleeing to his native Egypt.
“Our findings lead us to believe he is hiding in plain sight in the U.S.,” Nejad said.
Pamos said their main goal for the film is to get Yaser’s face in the public’s eye.
“From here on, it’s up to everyone else,” Pamos said. “I’m really excited because I hope this is the beginning of something bigger for Amina and Sarah. We’re hoping the story puts some pressure to catch Yaser, and I’m trusting that after people watch the film, they’re going to be energized and want to help.”
Nejad said throughout their research for the film, they were able to talk to FBI officials, all off camera. Through those interviews they learned more details about the case.
“We know he murdered someone in another country, and he was here in the U.S. because his father bought off the cops,” Nejad said. “We believe that while living in Abu Dubai, Said finished a shift at work, left and waited for a coworker to leave then ran over him several times.”
Through their research the directors also learned about a secret unknown daughter Said had during the time he was married to Patricia.
Nejad said they often traveled to Texas during production of the film. She said the crew approached the Said side of the family, but quickly learned that they weren’t going to cooperate.
“The last time we were in Texas, we decided to approach the Said side of the family and tried talking to one of Yaser’s brothers. I went by myself, with no camera, but his daughter said they didn’t want to talk,” Nejad said. “I left, but later got an angry phone call where I was threatened. I felt personally attacked. The Said family is capable of so much, and they have a history of domestic violence.”
Nejad said the film has helped bring the case back to the spotlight and even helped increase the $30,000 reward that is currently being offered for tips leading to Yaser’s conviction.
“There’s been a billboard in Times Square about this case, and we’re happy that the reward for Yaser was increased, but we want it to be raised more,” Nejad said. “We think that if more money is offered, someone will come forward. There’s been two eye witnesses state they had seen him in Texas.”
Nejad said editing the film was challenging due to funding constraints and the amount of footage shot.
“We got a writer to build a structure for us, which helped, but we still had over 4,000 hours of footage,” Nejad said. “Now the film sits at 1 hour and 45 minutes. We had to focus on the main information we wanted to present. Xoel has worked on editing religiously and worked on the script.”
Pamos said even though he is “exhausted” from the process, finishing the film was bitter sweet.
“We have been working on this for almost four years. We’ve met so many people throughout the process,” Pamos said. “Sometimes it feels like I have met Amina and Sarah. It feels great to see all the hard work we put into this come to an end.”
The Dallas premiere will include a showing of the film, followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers, including Amy Logan, consulting producer and Dallas native, and the appearance of some guests who will discuss the film and honor violence in depth.
“A lot of people who knew the girls will be there, some family members and some from the Muslim community, Pamos said.
Unlike other film premieres, the producers have decided to make it a public event, in consideration of friends of the sisters who would like to attend.
“We wanted to make sure that anybody who knew and cared about Amina and Sarah have the opportunity to be part of this event, said Sogol Tehranizadeh, producer of the film. “I know it is painful to go back and remember, but we hope our film will bring them some closure.”
Pamos said they would also have their version of the red carpet.
“It will be a pink carpet in honor of the girls,” Pamos said. “For those who didn’t know them, the significance will be revealed in the film. We will also have a wall with a banner where people can leave messages for the girls.”
After the Dallas premiere, the film will move on to Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. The film is anticipated to have distribution nationwide and will hit the most important film festivals.
“I believe the film will be very successful. We’ve already had universities asking for the film for educational purposes,” Pamos said. “It will go to streaming but probably not until the end of 2015. Our hope is that this gets the girls’ faces and their story out there and bring their killer to justice.”