Boy from War in Westword newspaper

By Kyle Harris

Usama Alshaibi doesn’t think of himself as a model refugee-turned-citizen. He’s neither a poster-child immigrant that Democratic strategists could parade around as a shining example of what happens when the United States opens its arms to Arabs, nor the bomb-wielding anti-American terrorist that President Donald Trump would have us believe immigrants from Iraq must be.

He didn’t join the military or die fighting for the United States in its war that destroyed his home country of Iraq. He was an average student. He experimented with sex and LSD. He found himself in the punk-rock scene of the ’80s. He drew inspiration from the Beats. Kids teased him because of his name and ridiculed him as a foreigner; when he visited his family in Iraq, he was viewed as an outsider American — a misfit. Negotiating sexual liberation, drugs, punk and Islam hasn’t been exactly easy for him, or something he’s been inclined to talk about in the context of his Arab-American identity. 

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Alex Cox supports Boy from War

Alex Cox directed one of the greatest American cult films called Repo Man. It had a huge influence on me as a teenager growing up in Iowa City. Alex Cox supports my new film Boy from War.

There was nothing like his film at the time—  it was the notion, this sense that there was this bullshit world out there created by Reagan and his repressed and do-goody just say no to everything ideology of the 80s. We loathed Reagan and punk was an expression of defiance against the status quo. Everything that is wrong with the film Repo Man is what makes it great. The film was instantly familiar but also eerie in how it tapped into our anxieties over nuclear war and nuclear waste. As teenagers it just felt the whole system was rigged and full of shit. Capitalism was winning and any genuine, non corporate expression was seen as a threat by mainstream society.

Our world was basement punk shows, reading underground comics, watching cult movies on VHS tapes, taking acid on weekends and spending too much time in art class. We mocked religion and authority and we were simultaneously doomed and free. We loathed popularity, trends and anything reeking of conformity.