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. The documentary had a theatrical release in Chicago and New York, and a broadcast premiere on the Sundance Channel.
Alshaibi’s controversial narrative feature Profane, premiered at the Chicago Underground Film Festival and has won several awards, including best feature film at the Boston Underground Film Festival.
His second documentary film American Arab, was produced under a Diversity Fellowship at the Chicago documentary powerhouse Kartemquin Films. The documentary had a world premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, and an American premiere at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. American Arab had a national television broadcast through PBS World Channel, as part of the fourth season of America ReFramed. It’s also been 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 13-part series Arab-American Stories, which aired nationally on public television stations.
The Chicago Tribune, Punk Planet, Senses of Cinema 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, an award from the Creative Capital Foundation for the Arts, and two Playboy Foundation awards. He is also the winner of the Creative Promise award at Tribeca All Access in New York City.