Father’s day

Right before my dad and I drove back to Baghdad in early 2004, my wife Kristie took this picture. It was the first image of a very intense and life changing trip for both of us that is documented in my film Nice Bombs. My father and I had been apart for so many years, and been away from Iraq for over 24 years; so it made this trip so significant. My father Hameed has been known as being a risk-taker, reckless, an adventurer and someone who never needed map… let’s just keep driving he would say. But for me, it helped when I took my own risks and traveled and entered new and strange places. It’s ironic that he brought us to the United States but he was never able to settle here. This is the first father’s day since my dad has died. There is something about being a father myself, as well as getting older and reflecting on my own childhood, that has given me a deeper love and appreciation for my own father. Happy father’s day to you dad. Miss you.

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.