Cinema-19 in Filmmaker Magazine

In the brisk, 43-minute anthology film, Cinema-19, a group of experimental filmmakers respond to the coronavirus pandemic with diverse and imaginative results. The films are all 190 seconds long and, say the curator/organizers, filmmakers Usama Alshaibi and Adam Sekuler, “do not attempt to summarize the pandemic, but instead focus on the personal, the political, the sensual, the distant, the abstract, and the absurd.” 
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Westword Magazine on CINEMA-19

“At some point in the middle of summer, with protests against police brutality and the conflicts on the streets in the United States, we questioned if we even needed a film program like this,” admits Alshaibi. “But I believe we do need artistic expressions and documentation during a historical time like ours. There is no singular narrative of what we are going through, but we are definitely going through a transformation collectively — and all these films are trying to make sense of our strange and dark days. In the end, I think there is hope…there has to be.”

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CINE-FILE review of American Arab for BEST OF CUFF

Usama Alshaibi’s AMERICAN ARAB (US/Documentary)

About halfway through AMERICAN ARAB, Marwan Kamel, a local Chicago musician of Syrian and Polish descent, sums up the knotty problem of carving out an identity in a country not fond of ambiguity, and offers this solution: “Give people the space to be complicated.” It’s something of a thesis for director Usama Alshaibi’s complex and extremely personal documentary. The core of the movie traces Alshaibi’s life through family photos and home movies as he bounces from Iraq to Iowa to Chicago, occasionally doubling back. In AMERICAN ARAB he examines how this sense of impermanence, coupled … Read the rest

Soak film review in Horror Estremo

[NOTE: This is auto translated from the original review in Italian  from horrorestremo.altervista.org]

Here is SOAK, the first work of the volcanic Iraqi director and artist Usama Alshaibi known, best known for the extreme anthology SOLAR ANUS CINEMA (with the exaggerated CONVULSION EXPULSION) and PROFANE, film of 2012, to date his latest film work. An abstract, confused and logical work that mixes memories, desires, fears and alienation, centering on the theme of sexually transmitted diseases and violence against women in order to fulfill their somewhat distorted sexual and mental desires.

We follow the vicissitudes of a boy traveling in Southeast … Read the rest

Film review for Profane

“There’s a cinematic mastery lying at the very core of Profane…”

“Kara portrays Muna masterfully by refusing to peel away the layers of her complex persona. Profane isn’t a film for the casual moviegoer, because it requires active listening and participation.”

“The original music by Ehsan Ghoreishi is haunting and deeply felt, while Alshaibi’s camera work is at times stunning in its intimacy and its heartbreak. While it may seem absurd to mention in a film with so much nudity (and there’s a lot!), Maha Moda deserves kudos for her costume design here. ”

Read more at the The Independent Read the rest

Exploring Identity Through Film by Mariam Elba

American Arab film review from The Islamic Monthly. From the article:

A lot of what Alshaibi said in the film resonated with me as an Arab-American. He spoke about watching movies as a child that grossly misrepresented Arabs as mindless and sex-starved, and seeing violent Arabs come at Michael J. Fox’s character in the film Back to the Future. Many times, I was fed the same narratives as a student. In my Advanced Placement World History class, we were shown the film Not Without My Daughter, which was full of bigoted depictions of Muslims and Iranians in … Read the rest

American Arab review in Al-Jadid Magazine

In Usama Alshaibi’s autobiographical documentary, the director recalls watching the popular comedy/adventure “Back to The Future” (1985) in a movie theater in Iowa City. He recounts how the appearance, out of nowhere, of a gang of “Libyans” determined to kill Doc, the movie’s loveable mentor, forced him to confront his own divided and complicated identity. The event abruptly dislocated Alshaibi from his role as an American teenager (something he longed to be) into the Other – the caricatured, malevolent, and despised Arab.

Watching “Back to the Future” in movie theaters in Pittsburgh and Houston, this reviewer and her brother experienced Read the rest

Underground Film Journal Reviews American Arab

Amal Family
“American Arab does not attempt to provide a definitive statement about the Arab experience in America. That might make a fine documentary some day — and Alshaibi would be excellent at making it — but here he is more of the inquisitive artist, seeking some kind of answer to questions that seem to keep shifting with each major life event, from the death of his brother to a brutal hate crime assault in 2011 to the birth of his beautiful daughter, Muneera.”-By Mike Everlet
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American Arab in the Chicago press

American Arab is playing Sunday, April 6 at the Chicago Underground Film Festival and I’m in town promoting the film and getting ready for our big premiere. The film has been featured in the Chicago Reader, The Chicago Sun Time and the Chicago Tribune. Here are some links and quotes.

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“It’s our responsibility to change the visual landscape. The people who are making these Hollywood films have a cartoonish conception of what a Puerto Rican is and what an Arab is. They put the simplest two-dimensional character on the screen, another movie copies it, and they become cookie cutters. We … Read the rest