Profane (2011, DVD Review)
by Greg Baty
Director: Usama Alshaibi
Cast: Manal Kara, Molly Plunk, Dejan Mircea
MVD Visual/ length: 78 minutes
Disk Extras: 20 minutes of extra footage
If you really understand religion on an intellectual level, you understand indoctrination. You know brainwashing and how the teachings and dogma go against every grain of human nature. One of those grains (more like a boulder) is sex and it is probably the most contentious of the beliefs held by most major religions. That is the postulation that sex is dirty and a sin if it is outside of “holy matrimony” or the like. Documentarian Usama Alshaibi (Nice Bombs and the upcoming American Arab) knows this all too well and has written and directed an art-house film in pseudo-documentary style to air his very angry grievances, Profane. Be warned; those easily offended by sacrilege and strong sexual content may want to stay in their prayer closets until this one is over.
The story follows Muna, a 20-something Muslim woman from Jordan who now resides in Chicago. She is a former prostitute who is now a dominatrix along with her compatriot Mary. The pair hang out, do drugs, degrade their submissives and contemplate life, in particular, religion. Muna has the inner struggle that every intelligent, free-thinking person who has been subjected to religious assimilation has. She wants to believe that the things she has been taught all of her life are just and true but she also wants the freedom to be a human being. To use her body the way she feels fit and to be in control of her life. She meets and sort of befriends Ali, a devout Muslim cab driver who tries to help her on her existential journey, but he doesn’t understand the turmoil and upheaval her belief system is in.
I am not one to seek out art-house films because, for the most part, I think they all teeter on the pretentious fulcrum. Affected “artists” making unwatchable menageries and hiding the flaws and holes with incomprehensible imagery. But there are artsy films, like those of Alejandro Jodorowsky, that are made by seriously talented artists who actually have something to say and have a vision they want to share. Yes, Profane has the seemingly nonsensical, psychedelic symbolism associated with art-house movies, but in the context of Usama Alshaibi’s thought provoking storytelling they just flow and on a subconscious level they make sense. The writer and director’s ability to convey his deep convictions not only shows his talent, but his courage as well. This film, apropos of its name, is sexually heretical and if one was so inclined, one may take it as blasphemous. And we know how well Muslims take disrespect.
How Alshaibi got first-time actress (and real-life atheist) Manal Kara, who plays “Muna”, to create such a realistic portrayal is a testimony to his and her talents. Kara also has some natural “talents” as well; she is absolutely stunning. Full lips, strong, gorgeous nose, a thick mane of hair and a real feminine body complete with curves. I wanted to sit with her character and talk about religion, sex and whatever else she wanted to wax philosophical about. She is a very engaging actress, playing an engaging character in an engaging film. Win, win and win. The other two leads, Molly Plunk (“Mary”) and Dejan Mircea (“Ali”), who are also rookie thespians, are also amazingly good in their roles and deliver dialogue so believable, the lines almost seem ad-libbed. In fact, to make the whole thing more legitimate, the partakers in the S&M scenes are actual submissive sexual slaves in their “real” life.
The DVD that is currently out from MVD Visual has a 20 minute supplement that basically mashes together deleted scenes and behind the scenes footage from the making of Profane. The first three minutes of which is a scene of the ladies whipping a guys naked ass until it develops welts. Thank “god” he really doesn’t mind that, huh?