Obama acceptance speech in Chicago

When I lived and worked in Chicago I was covering the Election Night Victory Speech in Grant Park. It was a historical and electrical evening for America as the first African-American became our president. Here are some photos I took that night on November 4, 2008.

Moustapha Akkad

Islam, Syria, Halloween and terrorism. I bring this up to talk about one of my filmmaker heros. Moustapha Akkad. He is the producer behind the Halloween films and franchise. Born in Aleppo Syria, he was accepted to study at UCLA in California. Before he left his father gave him a Quran and $200 and said this is all you need to make it.

He went on to direct one of the greatest films ever made about the rise of Islam called The Message (1976). It starred Anthony Quinn and was shot in both Arabic and English at the same time using different actors. The film was nominated for an Oscar for best original score but lost to Star Wars. Anybody that has grown up in the Muslim world has probably seen The Message. It’s played every year in parts of the Middle East and the film has educated millions of non-Muslims about the story of Muhammad and the early years of Islam. It’s a beautiful film and even has a mention of my family name: Al Shaibi, who were the pagan gatekeepers of the Ka’aba.

This man who elevated the story of Islam for the world to see was killed by a Muslim terrorist when he was in Amman, Jordan celebrating his daughter’s Rima’s wedding in 2005. A female suicide bomber blew herself up and Moustapha Akkad and his daughter were both killed.

So when you watch the original Halloween film, or if you have a chance go see The Message, think about this man from Syria who came over to America to show us something new.

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.”
PBS.org 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!

Click here: http://artvamp.com/usama/boy-from-war/