Usama Alshaibi’s film American Arab has its national television premiere on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 8/7c on WORLD Channel, as part of the fourth season of America ReFramed, public media’s newest documentary series. American Arab will kick off a three-episode focus on America ReFramed focusing on the #AmericanMuslim experience.
In American Arab, Iraqi-American director Alshaibi asks “Why is being an Arab suddenly the opposite of being a decent man?” In the film, Alshaibi explores the experience of American Arabs occupying the ‘space in between’ as a hyphenated American, specifically during the surge of anti-Muslim sentiment in a post 9/11 America.
In an interview with Radio Islam, Alshaibi describes his motivations behind making the film: “There’s not a lot out there that is really speaking about the Arab American experience from a nuanced point of view. We don’t have to apologize for who we are, but we also don’t have to put on the best face…[The film is] allowing [American Arabs] to have that complexity; to be complicated. There isn’t one narrative for the Arab American experience. I wanted all voices to exist.”
American Arab world premiered at IDFA and had its US premiere at Big Sky Doc Fest, before screening at Chicago Underground Film Festival (where it received a special jury honorable mention), Cleveland International Film Festival, Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival, and more festivals and community screenings. It is available on DVD and VOD.
Alshaibi began the project under a diversity fellowship at Kartemquin Films. The fellowship was enacted with support from the MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Additional funding came through CAAM and Illinois Humanities Council.
If you're in Chicago, tune in to WBEZ Worldview live at 12pm today to hear Usama Alshaibi talking about American Arab. In Boulder, Colorado, where Usama now lives, he will also be on KGNU Community Radio at 8:10am.
With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on more than 50 years of history as Chicago’s documentary powerhouse.
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