Underground Film Journal

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Support Usama Alshaibi’s American Arab!

By Mike Everleth ⋅ August 2, 2010

Filmmaker Usama Alshaibi wearing sunglasses

On Thursday, Aug. 5 in Chicago at the Stan Mansion, Kartemquin Films is hosting a special benefit event for the new documentary by Usama Alshaibi, American Arab, a personal documentary analyzing what it’s like to be an Arab American living in a post-9/11 world. The event will feature live music, Middle Eastern food, a raffle, belly dancing, henna tattoos as well as the World Premiere of clips from the upcoming film. Information on tickets can be found here.

Alshaibi is an American citizen of Iraqi descent who previously directed the award-winning documentary Nice Bombs — available on DVD for sale or rent — that chronicled his return to the country of his birth after over 20 years following the expulsion of Saddam Hussein by U.S. forces.

While American Arab will also feature Alshaibi’s personal experiences as an Iraqi-American, including his mother’s suggestion he change his name following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the film will also capture the voices of other Arab Americans, particularly to show that they are not a single monolithic group.

Plus, through weaving together historical footage and animation with documentation of real-life Arabs living their lives in the U.S. today, American Arab hopes to spark a serious, public conversation that has been sorely lacking for the past nine years.

Kartemquin Films has been producing documentaries for well over forty years, most notably Steve James’ basketball diary Hoop Dreams (1994). American Arab is the first recipient of the company’s Diversity Fellowship, which is sponsored by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Ford Foundation.

The Fellowship was initiated last year as a way to encourage minority filmmakers to make their voices heard, which Kartemquin founders Gordon Quinn and Jerry Blumenthal found lacking in our current media landscape. The goal of the new initiative was, according to the company’s executive director Justine Nagan, to “reach out to filmmakers of color who are in mid-career, from the Great Lakes region, so they can learn the process.”

In addition to Nice Bombs and American Arab, Alshaibi has directed the feature film Muhammad and Jane, plus close to 50 short films and numerous music videos. Regular readers of┬áthe Underground Film Journal know that he’s one of this site’s favorite and most exciting filmmakers, and many of his films have been featured here. American Arab is a project that we’re extremely anxious to see.

Plus, this event sounds like its going to be really spectacular. If you’re in the Chicago area on Thursday, Aug. 5, you should seriously think about attending. It’s a great cause to support and it’s going to be a blast. Tickets are only $40 in advance and $50 at the door, both of which include a free drink ticket. The location is:

The Stan Mansion
2408 North Kedzie
Chicago, IL 60647