AMERICAN ARAB #KTQ50 film now streaming for free

From today until Friday, September 30th, the free KTQ50 film is American Arab (2013).Watch it now.

“It’s giving voice to people who have been marginalized—and when they are presented in mainstream American media, it’s rarely from their perspective… At the same time, the movie doesn’t feel confrontational. It feels like the start of a conversation, rather than a provocation.”
— Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader

The first film in Kartemquin’s Diversity Fellowship program, American Arab is a provocative look at the contradictions of Arab identity in post 9/11 America. Iraqi-born director Usama Alshaibi (Nice Bombs, Profane) interweaves his personal narrative as an Arab-American and a filmmaker with the life stories of other diverse characters to explore the values, passions, and hopes held by modern Arab-Americans. As Alshaibi’s conflicted chosen homeland tries to paint him— and other Arab-Americans— with the same wide brushstroke, Alshaibi reclaims a complicated and varied identity through this autobiographical documentary, embracing the multifaceted Arab-American experience.

Though the film explores topics such as race, religion, and war, perhaps the greatest takeaway isn’t a belief in a policy but rather a deeper understanding of the human experience. In an interview with the Chicago Reader, Usama Alshaibi calls for an acknowledgement that the Arab-American experience is complicated, and needs space to be complex.

“I think the United States is starting to see the melting pot happen right now. As the landscape of America is changing, this type of conversation becomes more important and relevant. People need to be able to feel like they’re complicated. It’s not like there needs to be any tension between you being an American and you being a Puerto Rican. In another way, you can also say, “I abandon both of these cultures,” and sort of find your own. One of the people I talk to in the film—his name is Marwan Kamel, his mom’s from Poland and his dad’s from Syria, and he said something very beautiful and simple: “Allow people the ability to be complex, give them that space to be complex.” It’s important to allow these stories to be heard, and I think certain filmmakers who have been marginalized in the past also need to be heard.”

For more of Alshaibi’s thoughts on the film and the Arab-American experience, check out this interview from 2013.

The film has its world premiere at IDFA in 2013 and received an honorable mention from the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Gordon Quinn and Justine Nagan were executive producers on the film, with Matt Lauterbach and Leslie Simmer editing. American Arab was supported with funding from the MacAurthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

American Arab is available for purchase on DVD here.

In 2016, several organizations around the country will host a series of screenings and events to celebrate Kartemquin’s 50th anniversary. We also invite you to watch all our films for free, week by week, at and join the conversation at #KTQ50.

American Arab: reactions

I’m receiving emails from strangers who just watched American Arab on public television and felt a connection to the film. Some of their words:
“Thank you for making the movie. Thank you for having the balls to be honest.”
“My family is Jewish and though the particulars differ, had this been 100 years earlier, your story could have been telling my family’s.”
“As a 62 yr old white 4th generation Italian American who was brought up with the stories of the struggles of my ancestors your story brought me to tears. I really think the great work you do makes a difference.” is streaming it until October 6, 2016.

Boy from War – demo fund

I have a new film I’m trying to get funded that tells the story of my childhood growing up in the 1980s during war and the trauma it left me with.

I’ve struggled to cope and understand what I went through during the Iraq and Iran war when I lived in the southern city of Basra, Iraq. I was 10 years old and deeply traumatized by the nightly bombings and fear of death. But within this dark period, I had a dog that I loved dearly and had to leave behind.

I use this story as the basis for telling a universal story of being a refugee of war. These violent wars, involving western powers in clashes over resources, take over and destroy our countries and our homes, displacing millions of people every year. I’m connecting my experience to other displaced kids today– and within that, the experience of a young person who is trying to find meaning in a hostile and indifferent world.

I’m raising money for this animated documentary to get it off the ground. Please watch the pitch video.

Caroline Voagen Nelson created the beautiful animation for the short rough-teaser and the project has two kick-ass producers, Eman Akram Nader and Kristie Alshaibi.

Help with what you can. Spread the word and thank you!

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