Friday, December 24, 2010

Life in Snow

Outside my window. Fairfield, Iowa. December 24, 2010.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

From Iraq to Iowa

With a little help from Kartemquin Films, Usama Alshaibi documents the Arab-American experience.
By Ed M. Koziarski

"If you think you know what an Arab is, you don't," filmmaker Usama Alshaibi says. "I don't know either."

Alshaibi is an Arab himself, born into a moderately Muslim household in Baghdad in 1969. For a time he was very religious, but now he's not at all. He grew up in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Abu Dhabi, but also in Iowa City. He was a young man knocking around America when he got word on the eve of the Gulf war that the Iraqi government wanted him home to join the army and help repel the American invasion.

In early 2004 Alshaibi did go home, and documented his first trip to Iraq in 25 years in the film Nice Bombs, his most successful project to date—it got a limited theatrical release in 2007 and aired on the Sundance Channel in 2008. For the documentary he's working on now, called "American Arab," Alshaibi decided to sort out his experience, and the experience of others like him, on this side of the world. "It's been pretty emotional to dig deep into this stuff and remember what I went through and to be honest with myself about how I really felt growing up here," he says. "There were moments I was really embarrassed to be Arab. It took me a while to be cool with that." As part of a benefit to raise funds for the film, he'll screen a 14-minute excerpt this Thursday, August 5, at Stan Mansion in Logan Square.

Alshaibi went to kindergarten in Iowa City while his father, on a scholarship from the Iraqi government, studied for an MBA at the University of Iowa. "I didn't really know what Islam was," he says. "We celebrated Christmas. My parents sent my sisters and I to bible camp during the summer, to get rid of us."

Yet he felt far from assimilated. "When I was a kid I felt like no one was like me here in the U.S. or in the Middle East," Alshaibi says. "It's this strange cross-cultural identity that's almost a third identity. It's neither/or."
click to enlarge Usama Alshaibi today

The Alshaibis returned to Iraq when he was in fourth grade. They moved to Basra, because Alshaibi's father couldn't teach business in Baghdad without joining the ruling Ba'ath Party. "Going from an American-style public school system to Iraq was a big shock," Alshaibi says. "My grandfather asked me if I was reading the Koran in America. I said, 'Yeah, grandfather, but we call it the Bible.'"

In 1980 Iraq invaded Iran in an attempt to occupy the oil-producing and largely Arab province of Khuzestan. This set off the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. "My dad would say, 'We're on the good side, the U.S. is supporting us,'" Alshaibi says.

Near the Khuzestan border, Basra suffered nightly bombing raids. "It's a strange feeling as a kid, to realize your parents can't protect you from war," Alshaibi says. "I was grabbing for a higher power." He grew increasingly religious—even more so after he and his family fled the war in 1981 for Saudi Arabia. (Their house in Basra was bombed within months of their departure.)

Alshaibi's two sisters were born in Iraq, his two brothers in Iowa. The family lived wherever his father found teaching jobs—in Saudi Arabia for two years, then Jordan, then Abu Dhabi. He was in ninth grade when his mother, who wanted to study fashion design, took the children back to Iowa City. His father, who couldn't find work in the U.S., stayed in Abu Dhabi, and his parents eventually divorced.

"You can imagine growing up in war, and living in Saudi Arabia, where everyone is very religious, then coming to the U.S. to attend high school, where everyone is concerned about dating," says Alshaibi. As his religiosity faded he grew increasingly interested in art. After studying painting for a year at the University of Iowa, he dropped out, but he continued to paint.

Because he was in the U.S. on his mother's student visa, he couldn't work legally. "It's a very unstable, uncomfortable feeling, knowing your status is murky and you don't want to be found out," he says. "My mode was just survival." He moved around a lot, working as a dishwasher and at other odd jobs in Boulder, Santa Fe, Providence, and Madison, occasionally taking college classes and showing his art in cafes. When he turned 21 in 1990, his mother's visa no longer covered him and the INS told him he had to leave. But that August Iraq invaded Kuwait. "The Iraqi government was contacting my father [who was teaching in Jordan, a nominal ally of Iraq] saying they needed more soldiers to fight against the U.S. and its allies," says Alshaibi.

He was sure if he went back he'd die in the war. He applied for political asylum, and nine months later he received it.

In the meantime, he started to feel the curiosity directed toward himself and other Arabs turning darker and more hateful. "I met a few soldiers in Iowa and I started hearing the word 'sand nigger,'" he says. "At parties people would make racist comments disguised as jokes. 'You're the camel jockey.' I kind of tolerated it."

In Madison Alshaibi got turned on to the Cinema of Transgression, a New York underground film movement, and especially to the films of Richard Kern. "The people in his films looked like my friends," Alshaibi says. "The music they had was the music I was listening to. I'd never seen something like that. It started opening my mind to what was possible."

In 1994, Alshaibi moved to Chicago to enroll at Columbia College as a film student. He paid his way with loans and by working in the school's equipment cage and at Nationwide Video. "Columbia trained us to think about the Hollywood model," Alshaibi says. "We had to work on these larger-scale student projects and they followed that hierarchy." Other students were making the movies; he was their production assistant, the gofer making coffee runs. "I thought, what's the difference between this and washing dishes?"

Gravitating toward work that was more DIY, he found a community of likeminded filmmakers in Chicago and around the country who were screening their films in a proliferating underground festival and microcinema scene. "We shared that common desire to experiment with performance and makeup and costumes and do things that were more strange and not conventional," he says. "It felt closer to painting or drawing—not this highly constructed method but a gesture I can do from the soul."

Alshaibi got his green card in 1995, graduated from Columbia two years later, and went to work as a video and audio archivist for the Chicago Historical Society. One of his jobs was to digitize its collection of Studs Terkel interviews, and he and Terkel became close. "He taught me to listen to people," Alshaibi says. "He put a little bravery in me and helped me recognize that what I had to say was relevant, how I can use my personal story to talk about things that affect other people." An interview with Alshaibi appears in Terkel's 2003 book Hope Dies Last.

In 2000 Alshaibi cofounded the Z Film Festival at Heaven Gallery, where it would run for five years. One of the first filmmakers it showcased was Kristie Drew, an MFA grad of the Art Institute. Alshaibi and Drew collaborated on a series of sexually explicit and sometimes violent shorts. "It was usually my camera aimed at her," Alshaibi says. "These films we did together were our own secret little love letters, which is strange because if you see some of them they might come off as disturbing. But we enjoy them."

They also maintained websites that were about as raw and transgressive—and highly political. They got noticed. After 9/11, Alshaibi received an anonymous e-mail that said, "The only good Arab is a dead Arab. Die sand nigger."

"I was afraid to leave my house," he says. "I was afraid to tell people my name. My mom suggested I change my name to cause less problems. But I stuck to my guns. I'm very proud of who I am and what my name is."

Alshaibi has an aunt who in 2002 was chased by another motorist while she was driving in New Jersey. "He was trying to bump her and screaming at her and yelling profanity at her and calling her a terrorist," Alshaibi says. Some time after that, she stopped wearing her headscarf. "When she had it on it was difficult," he says. "Women who wear hijab are often attacked because they're the most obviously Muslim-looking people."

Alshaibi and Drew married in 2002, and Alshaibi became a naturalized American citizen soon after. "I was very proud to become an American citizen, and very troubled by what was happening to this country that I suddenly had to embrace as my home," he says. In 2002 Kristie responded to the racial profiling of Arabs as terror suspects by predicting on her blog that the next bomber would most likely be a blond, blue-eyed woman—which she also happens to be. The couple was visited by a pair of FBI agents (and the visit was the subject of a Reader story). "They asked if she was planning on carrying out an attack on the United States or Israel," Alshaibi says. "She said no. They told me I spoke really good English." Alshaibi's 2003 feature-length movie, Muhammad and Jane, tells the story of a romance between an American woman and an Iraqi man whose fears of the American government turn into a very real nightmare.

The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, and Alshaibi told Terkel he wanted to make a film about returning to his homeland and visiting family there for the first time in 25 years. "He said, 'You have to go,'" Alshaibi says. "He wrote the first check. Having Studs behind me, within a few weeks I raised the money."

That movie turned out to be Nice Bombs. "I had this romantic idea that they got rid of the government and captured Saddam, and now Iraqis are free people and they're going to have this open society," he says. "I can move there and build a house and raise my family."

A few weeks on the ground shattered his optimism. "It was like a record scratch. I felt very American. Iraqis kind of got used to living in war. It was difficult for me to go through the bombing and the threat of being killed or kidnapped or beheaded."

In 2006 Alshaibi left the Historical Society for a job as a host and producer for Chicago Public Radio's He was laid off in 2008 and spent a year unemployed, but in 2009 he was invited to apply for Kartemquin Films's first diversity fellowship, underwritten by the MacArthur and Ford foundations. He proposed making "American Arab."

The fellowship pays him a salary for a year, covers his production costs, and provides the normally self-reliant filmmaker with Kartemquin's administrative infrastructure.

"I'm looking for stories of people who have an inner struggle with who they are," Alshaibi says. "Unfortunately, being an Arab, that's a common experience. Often we're faced with something from the outside that makes us ask questions about who we are inside. People don't go out seeking that kind of conflict, but when somebody comes up to you and says you're a terrorist, you need to figure out how to respond to this."

Alshaibi's subjects include Marwan Kamel of the local band Al-Thawra ("The Revolution"), which figures in the nascent taqwacore, or Islamic punk, scene; Subhi Jasser, who moved to Chicago with his family in 2009 after he'd been kidnapped by militants in Baghdad and his house raided by U.S. soldiers; Ray Hanania, a Christian Palestinian-American columnist, radio host, and comedian who's also a Vietnam vet and Cicero's town spokesman; and Amal Abusumayah, an American-born Muslim woman whose headscarf was yanked in a Tinley Park grocery four days after last November's Fort Hood shootings. (The case was prosecuted as a hate crime.)

"American Arab" is a little less than half done. Alshaibi plans to finish it next year, take it to festivals, and try to get it shown on television.

The Alshaibis recently rented a house in Fairfield, Iowa, where Kristie is studying transcendental meditation at the Maharishi Peace Palace. "I miss the country," he says. "I miss having a big yard and seeing the night sky." But on leaving Chicago, he realized for the first time that the city's "truly my home. I found a place for myself here."


Thursday, July 8, 2010

A benefit for American Arab a documentary in progress

Kartemquin Films and director Usama Alshaibi invite you to


A documentary in progress

Thursday, August 5th, 6-9pm
The Stan Mansion
2408 North Kedzie, Chicago, Illinois 60647

Enjoy an evening of Music by Black Bear Combo, Middle Eastern Food,
Cash Bar, Raffle, Belly Dancing, Henna Tattoos, and the World Premiere
of clips from the upcoming film American Arab.

Proceeds will support production of the film.
[Click here for information)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I saw the words: ectopic pregnancy. It is like giving birth to nothing with all the pain and process of birth. A mock of life in reverse.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cinema Alshaibi at Fat Rabbit

Husband and wife collaborators Usama and Kristie Alshaibi are presenting some rarely seen short videos created between 1998 and 2010. This will include early 16mm films by both directors as well as a number of collaborations shot on a wide array of mediums.

In addition, we will premiere a trailer of Usama’s new feature length movie, “Profane.”

The Alshaibis will be selling copies of their limited edition book A History of Flying Vaginas and their DVD of short artfully perverse films titled “Solar Anus Cinema.”

The event is FREE. But please help the Alshaibis in any way you can by buying merchandise or contributing to to help raise finishing funds for the new feature. BYOB.

Saturday June 26, 2010
@Fat Rabbit 1711 S. Halsted,
Chicago, IL 60608

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Muhammad Cartoons

It's not so much that they are offended by the content of the cartoons, it's because its forbidden in Islam to have any depictions of the prophets of the Abrahamic religions and of God. That's why all of Islamic art is abstract or more geometrical and about the text and images of humans-- that dominate much of Christianity and Hinduism.
I think the response to these cartoons is inflated in the west. There is a tradition within Shia Islam of painting all the Shia saints and there are numerous paintings of Muhammad. I have a photo and seen one in Baghdad.

Below is a portrait of Muhammad in my Uncles library in Baghdad.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Saint Ali and the sword of the Goddess

The sword of Ali is famous in the Shia Islamic world. It is like the tongue of a serpent... was it stolen from the shrine of the Arab Goddess?

The Moroccan sociologist, novelist and feminist Fatimah Mernissi traces the origins of Dhulfiqar from the temples of Lat, Manat and Uzza. According to this legend, the Prophet appropriated two sacrificial sabres from the temple of Manat and gave them to Ali, saying that one of them was Al-Dhulfiqar, which became the famous sword of Ali the Warrior.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


“Of course there is the body, the flesh and the invisible in between. Glowing in front of you saying kiss me fucker.”

My Fourth Painting

Monday, May 3, 2010

Usama the Camel Jockey

At the Dead Sea.

Only 20 copies left of Flying Vagina Book

Last year Usama and Kristie Alshaibi attended an artists’ residency in the Netherlands called Extrapool. The end result was a children’s book for adults called

A History of Flying Vaginas

A limited edition of 200 were printed. There are just 20 copies left for purchase. Printed on Acid Free Paper using the antiquated Stencilprint process, each copy is signed by the artists.

Available for $20 each.

To order contact Kristie:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bullets for Jesus

Arab Christians celebrate Easter with guns. Haha.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Solar Anus Cinema DVD official release is today

We initially self-released this DVD last year but we just found a proper distributor with MVD. Today on 4/20 is our official release date!

Buy Solar Anus DVD here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Help with my new film: American Arab


In the days after 9/11, Usama Alshaibi’s mother suggested that he change his name. Suddenly, Usama’s name was not solely his own. He unfortunately shared it with a criminal mastermind.

In AMERICAN ARAB, the Iraqi-American filmmaker will share his own story and introduce us to others, sparking a frank conversation about the identity of, and perceptions about, Arab-Americans. Seamlessly weaving historical footage, animation, as well as real-life scenes of people living as Arabs in the U.S., the film will put a human face on the vague complexities of racism in post-9/11 America.

When images of ‘terrorists’ were displayed on the front cover of every major newspaper with Wild West ‘Wanted’ above, Arabs like Alshaibi did not see villains. They saw their uncles, their fathers, their brothers. They saw themselves.

More recently, during the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama was regularly cast as ‘Arab’ or ‘Muslim,’ in order to intimidate some American citizens into mistrusting him. When a nervous woman during a rally asked about Obama being an Arab, McCain bluntly replied: "No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man, a citizen.” Could an Arab no longer be a decent person?

What does it mean to be an Arab living in America today?

Throughout the film, we will get to know American-born Amal Abusumayah, who wears a headscarf and tells us how she was the victim of a hate crime shortly after the 2009 Ft. Hood shootings. We will also meet the Jassar family, Iraqi refugees who have lived on the north side of Chicago for less than a year after escaping violence in Iraq. Finally, Alshaibi will introduce us to Marwan Kamel, a punk musician in his 20s who is forming a new, untraditional Arab-American identity without conflict. As Marwan says, “It’s okay to be complicated.”

Arab-Americans are not one monolithic group, but rather a diverse and complex array of many voices and cultures. By making a coherent and entertaining documentary on the Arab-American life and experience, we hope to educate as well as inform audiences on this contemporary American story.

AMERICAN ARAB is a project of Kartemquin Films’ first Diversity Fellowship, sponsored by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Ford Foundation. Additional funding will allow the filmmakers to continue production through the summer of 2010.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Profane" movie trailer

Religious and sexual submission are explored in a movie about a Muslim Dominatrix in need of an exorcism. Seeking finishing funds. Please click here to help:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar night and Iraq

I watched the Oscars last night and as you know Kathryn Bigelow won for best director and best picture for 'Hurt Locker.' Good for her. First time a woman has won. I have not seen the movie.

But I was disappointed that all she could do was thank the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Granted she did thank the country of Jordan but not one mention of Iraqis.
Even after she won best picture she went up and thanked the soldiers again and even started thanking firefighters.
I have no issue with folks in the military I have friends in the army that have served.

I guess I'm sick and tired of hearing about how brave the soldiers are etc... I mean they are trained to fight and kill. Big deal. What about the brave children of Iraq who have put up with 7 years of bombing and death? What about the massive amounts of bombs dropped by US military planes on innocent civilians? Not one mention of the people of Iraq?

Over 1,000,000 Iraqis have died over a war they did not ask for and not one tear for them?

Hollywood keeps making movies about the war and they still come off as cold-hearted assholes with no regard to human life. Just a huge pro-military death machine supporting a film industry.

The true heroes of the war in Iraq are not the soldiers who VOLUNTEER to learn how to shoot people and fight but it is the BRAVE Iraqis who have endured this hell of a war and still find courage to smile and look forward.

Hollywood and US policy treats the Arab world and the people of the Arab world as a backdrop for their grand explosive macho-induced money making garbage they call patriotism.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"House" (1977) Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi

The Japanese film "House" made in 1977 by Nobuhiko Obayashi is one of his first major films. It is a type of horror movie with notions of experimental art-video and other freaky effects. There are swipes, odd iris transitions, overlapped images... and other unexpected play with the real and unreal.

The plot is simple. A teen girl Oshare (Gorgeous) was going to spend the summer with her father; but he brought his new beautiful girlfriend (who is repeatedly framed in flowing fabric and over-the-top romantic music.) It made me giggle. Oshare is annoyed with the new plans since she lost her mother recently- so the teen girl decides to go visit her aunt instead at an old 'haunted' house with all her friends. The group of girls all represent some sort of personality. There is Fanta (who takes pictures and daydreams), KungFu (tough girl and fights), Gari/Prof (book nerd), Sweet (likes to do housework), Mac (plump teen that is always eating), and Melody (a musician who plays piano.)

When they finally arrive at the aunt's house the film truly begins. The artificial sky is something like a rejected Wizard of Oz backdrop. Lush oranges and cut-out green-screened images combined with the haunted house give it a surreal magic quality. It has this 70's soft-focus feel but also something warm and familiar. There will be loud and explosive horror scenes (for example a decapitated head flying and biting the girls ass) and suddenly silence as the girls are giggling and laughing it off.

To follow this film in any coherent manner is not that important. It just keeps getting weirder by the minute. There is a wonderful play between using objects to emphasize humor or horror (the sleazy guy that turns into many bananas) and using video affects to show the colorful violence (cut off fingers playing the piano.)

And speaking of music there is an eerie piano motif throughout.
I would not describe this as a horror movie in that you will be scared... but it does feel at times like you have no idea what is happening. There are moments that I felt like I had just been dosed with Acid... a scene where the group of girls decide to call the police and the frame-rate and audio shift into something slower and other-worldly.

Perhaps it may be seen as campy. But I need to see this kind of cinema. I highly recommend "House." Watch it alone, watch it with friends. But keep an open mind and open heart. There is something really endearing and dream-like about this film.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Film Bizarro Interview: From Real to Surreal with Usama Alshaibi

First of all, thanks for agreeing on doing the interview. Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Usama Alshaibi, Iraqi born, United States citizen. Filmmaker, artist...

How and when did your interest in film start?

Well I had always been interested in art. Especially as a child. I drew all the time. I would try and copy some of the great masters... I studied art and painting briefly in college. I had always played with video and would mess around with my Dad's super 8mm film camera. So I knew film and video early on. But it was not something I got into until later... I started playing more with Super 8mm and started working in photography. 35mm, processing black and white. When I started watching films by Wim Wenders, Roman Polanski, and all the Cinema of Transgression stuff that I thought... hmm I'd like to do this. So I went to film school in Chicago. But still I was trying to find my voice. The school I went to really trained us to be more like Hollywood directors and I was not really interested in that model. I was interested in playing in places like the New York Underground Film Festival and the Chicago Underground Film Festival...

That's something that I've really found interesting about you.. Cinema of Transgression is a very specific subgenre, and it feels like very few filmmakers nowadays "get it", or even know of it. What was your first attempt at making these films?

I was aware of experimental films and such. But the Cinema of Transgression just seemed to speak to me directly. They were playing the music I listened to and the people in the films looked like some of the folks I hung out with. There was something seedy and perverse about it. I guess that first film that I made that was not a nod to that movement but me finding my own voice was called "Dance Habibi Dance" it played at New York Underground and played all over the world. It was my first taste. Shot on 16mm film and was totally unlike anything I was trained to do ( It was also playing with my own cultural roots. So it was not just copying something. There was nothing like it.

You have alot of your films online for streaming, is this something you see as a possibility to get your name out?

Exactly. But back in 1998 up to 2001 it was still a new idea having your films up online. This is before Youtube and Vimeo and I already had my short films up online in these various sites. It was still a new idea and I remember many filmmaker being horrified that I was just "giving away" my work. I never saw it that way.

I agree with you in many ways, that it's not about giving it away, but rather a new way to get it out. Of course, selling a DVD is a good way to do it still, and I always prefer buying one over streaming. But at the end of the day, alot of people don't want to pay for something they know shit about.

In the old days a director would make a music video and hope it gets played on MTV. Now we show it off on Youtube. Early on, I was very much aware that the new theater, the new way of looking at films was going to be on tiny monitor and computer screens, phones, etc. So I thought more of one person privately watching my short films instead of a whole audience. Although I still show at many film festivals. But the experience of watching something online is totally different then having to find it somewhere. Although there are many of my films that I can't really show online due to censorship. So we still have to have other means, like DVD. I kind of do both. Like I would not want to give away "Nice Bombs". And there are many of my pieces that you can only watch on DVD. The dialogue I have with some of the online films is fascinating to me. Like "Allahu Akbar" just read all the crazy ass comments on youtube. It brings a new perspective that I did not intend:

I have seen alot of your experimental videos, but have yet to see "Nice Bombs". What can you tell us about that one?

The USA invaded Iraq in 2003. I thought it would be a good time to go back to Iraq. I was born there and had escaped with my family as a child and had been away for over 20 years. With my wife and my Dad we returned to the most dangerous city in the world in early 2004. I made a movie about Baghdad in time of war with a mixture of my own story. That movie had changed my life.

That must have been both hard and interesting for you to make?

Yeah. It was a tough time. When I got back to the USA my younger brother died from a drug overdose. The war in Iraq was getting darker and more violent. It was a rough time for me. I had some media attention over the film and it did pretty good. But emotionally it was a challenging and very personal film. I'm happy I did it though. It took a lot out of me but I'm okay now.

I find it very interesting when documentary filmmakers set out to make a film in the most terrible places to be, and same goes to the News people who run around in the middle of battle. You must've grown as a person from doing something like that, and really made you appreciate life in a new way?

Yes. But unlike a news person that goes to a foreign land to cover some catastrophic event, I was from Iraq. I already had a history and I was going back. I was returning to something that I feared. War, death, being kidnapped, or even worse having my blond haired American wife kidnapped. It was dangerous. We literally had to drive from Jordan to Baghdad. No airports. No bullet-proof jacket or security. It was just me and my camera. It did change me. It changed me forever... and it also set me into a new course in filmmaking. I was able to go deeper into this film and explore many aspects of life in Iraq and my relationship to it... I guess what I'm trying to say that the experience of the documentary went far beyond the film itself. So the movie elevated my work to a whole new audience. Getting a broadcast premiere and theatrical release was a totally new experience for me. So "Nice Bombs" not only changed me as a person but as a filmmaker as well.

You mentioned your new film "Profane" earlier, that it was a morphing of your different films. In what way do you think "Nice Bombs" influenced the making of it? If it did, of course.

My brother was a devout Muslim but also a drug addict. So I was interested in this duality a little. I was raised as a Muslim and was very religious myself when I was a teen living in Saudi Arabia. But after I left Islam I started to look back into who I was, what Islam was and what my culture or traditions meant. It started slowly with an ongoing experimental project called "Baghdad, Iowa" ( and then lead to "Profane." The connection to 'Nice Bombs' is probably being more comfortable and aware of the complexities of Islam and Arab culture. I wanted to use Islam as a theme in the horror genre in the same way that Christians use these images and beliefs. The notion of Jinn's and Satan (or Shaytan in Arabic) is a very powerful element in Islam. There are many minority cultures in Iraq and religious beliefs that even pre-date Islam. Remember the beginning of the "The Exorcist" takes place in Iraq.

What more can you tell us about it? There is a sneak peak of it at, and personally I thought it almost makes it seem like a movie about possession.

It is a movie about possession. According to Islam mythology we each have our own Jinn. God, or Allah created humans from clay, angels from light and jinn's from smokeless fire. But in my movie it is an inverted exorcism. In Catholic ideas of demon possession you try and get it out f the person. In my movie, my main character has lost her Jinn and is trying to get it back into her, in order to not be possessed.

You also mentioned that you injected these subjects into the horror genre, so would it be correct to call this a horror movie in the traditional sense?

You can call "Profane" a horror movie. In the traditional sense... maybe. I have not seen Islam used in this way. It plays with certain expectations and I am also trying to show you something. There are many levels to the movie. For example, the main character, Muna, she is a pro-Domme. That is, men submit to her and pay her to beat and humiliate them. And she, in her way, is submitting to Allah. The very meaning of "Muslim" means to submit. Even in my "fictional" films there is something that tries and reveal a truth. Not just documentary for documentary's sake. But something that is truthful about this person. That comes from real life. So I may set up artifice of horror and Jinns, but I am trying to show something truthful about Muna and her life. I have never been comfortable with just making something totally non-fiction. I am always taking something from reality, always. I wrote, directed and shot it and now I am editing it. I am working with a very talented Iranian-American musician named Ehsan Ghoreishi. This style of doing everything myself is how I used to make all my work...but I don't do that with all my work now.

I guess filmmakers often come to a point where they need and want a bigger crew. I dont mean like a Hollywood film where they want hundreds to do their hair, but I think its important for filmmakers to expand through working with others.

Yes and my most recent new doc, in production, I am working with a full production company and crew. I crave that now. I want to hire an editor and cinematographer. I get burned out doing it myself! Plus it feels so much better to just write and direct.

We need to round this up now, so I want to thank you for doing this interview with us, and I look forward to seeing your future work. Do you have anything to say to our readers?

Thank you! I want to say that we need to support more independent filmmakers that truly operate outside of the conventional mainstream cinema world. We need more diverse, and unique voices in film, to offset the corporations that are turning our media into a mono-culture.

Cheers! And take care.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Weather Report for Chicago February 9, 2010

My Weather Report for Chicago February 9, 2010: snow everywhere.

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Weather Report for Chicago February 5, 2010

My Weather Report for Chicago February 5, 2010: sickly.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Looking back

Here I am on the set of 'Profane' from November 2008. I was in a crazed state of mind during the shoot. But we finished and I'm still editing. Shooting and directing all at once with a small crew was a curse and a blessing. Curse be gone!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Weather Report for Chicago January 31, 2010

My Weather Report for Chicago January 31, 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Weather Report for Chicago January 30, 2010

Very cold, frozen water and frozen faces. Light pleasant winds.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I quote

"By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired."
~ Franz Kafka

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"The real purveyors of the news are artists, for artists are the ones who infuse fact with perception, emotion, and appreciation...We are beginning to realize that emotions and imagination are more potent in shaping public sentiment and opinion than information and reason."

~John Dewey, The Public and its Problems (1927)*
*Found on Gordon Quinn's facebook page.