Friday, April 16, 2010
Help with my new film: American Arab
CLICK HERE TO HELP DONATE TO THIS FILM PROJECT.
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.