Usama Alshaibi was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1969 and spent his formative years living between the United States and the Middle East. He’s an active filmmaker and visual artist, with several short films, documentaries and feature films to his credit. His films have screened at underground and international film festivals, and have been broadcast on television stations across the globe.
In early 2004, nine months after the United States invaded Iraq, Usama and his wife Kristie returned to his birthplace to shoot his first feature documentary titled Nice Bombs (2006). The documentary had a theatrical release in Chicago and New York, and a broadcast premiere on the Sundance Channel.
A number of his short films and his early feature films all had world premieres at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. His third narrative feature, Profane (2011), has won several awards, including best feature film when it premiered at the Boston Underground Film Festival.
His second documentary film American Arab (2013), was produced under a Diversity Fellowship at the Chicago documentary powerhouse Kartemquin Films. The film world premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, and had its U.S. premiere at the Big Sky Documentary Festival. American Arab had a national television broadcast through PBS World Channel, and was televised on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation and VGTV in Norway.
Alshaibi has also produced and directed music videos for independent record labels such as Thrill Jockey, Skin Graft and Drag City. He was commissioned by Detroit Public Television to direct and produce two segments, “Mother Mosque” and “Elkader, Iowa” for the award-winning series Arab-American Stories, which aired nationally on public television stations.
The Chicago Tribune, Time Out, Punk Planet and Variety have covered his work and his transgressive short films are featured in Jack Sargeant’s book Flesh and Excess: On Underground Film. An interview with Usama appears in Studs Terkel’s book Hope Dies Last, and his coming-of-Arab story is in Louis Cainkar’s book, Homeland Insecurity: The Arab American and Muslim American Experience After 9/11.
Alshaibi’s films have received several grants, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation award, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, an award from the Creative Capital Foundation for the Arts, and two Playboy Foundation awards. He’s also the winner of the Creative Promise award at Tribeca All Access in New York City.
Usama lived in Chicago for over 17 years and worked as a digital archivist at the Chicago History Museum, and as a radio host and producer for Chicago Public Media. Currently Alshaibi is a visiting assistant professor at Colorado State University.
Usama and his creative partner Kristie Alshaibi run and operate Artvamp, which produces the majority of their films.