Alex Cox supports Boy from War

Alex Cox directed one of the greatest American cult films called Repo Man. It had a huge influence on me as a teenager growing up in Iowa City. Alex Cox supports my new film Boy from War.

There was nothing like his film at the time—  it was the notion, this sense that there was this bullshit world out there created by Reagan and his repressed and do-goody just say no to everything ideology of the 80s. We loathed Reagan and punk was an expression of defiance against the status quo. Everything that is wrong with the film Repo Man is what makes it great. The film was instantly familiar but also eerie in how it tapped into our anxieties over nuclear war and nuclear waste. As teenagers it just felt the whole system was rigged and full of shit. Capitalism was winning and any genuine, non corporate expression was seen as a threat by mainstream society.

Our world was basement punk shows, reading underground comics, watching cult movies on VHS tapes, taking acid on weekends and spending too much time in art class. We mocked religion and authority and we were simultaneously doomed and free. We loathed popularity, trends and anything reeking of conformity.

The Boy from War story

Hello friends,

I want to tell you a story. When I was ten years old I was living in Basra, Iraq and war just broke out with Iran. I had already spent five years living in Iowa City and was adjusting to my new life in my birthplace. I also had a dog named Snoopy. Almost every night my family and I would hear the war sirens and the bombings would start. It would shake the ground and we would often take cover in our bathroom. I was deeply traumatized by the bombings and it’s something I never really recovered from. I was convinced that I was going to die. We eventually escaped Iraq and I ended back in Iowa City at the start of high school in the mid 1980’s. At that time, I tried to make sense of the world through my drawings, experimenting with psychedelic drugs, and embracing the subculture of punk rock. I was forming an identity through all this chaos and darkness to understand my life.

This story is not so unique. It’s the story of a kid that grew up displaced and tried to find his place. So many kids share this story.

So much of Hollywood ignores our stories and keeps broadcasting tired old stereotypes of the Arab terrorist or the ignorant foreigner. But the truth is that my story and all of those before me is what makes America what it is. That’s also why I returned to Iraq at the start of the United States invasion to make a documentary called Nice Bombs about life for Iraqis during war; and my second documentary American Arab about the rising bigotry toward Middle Eastern people. But with this new film I’m going back to my early years, the time of my childhood into a teenager and what that looked and felt like.

Animation is a powerful way to express a lived and traumatic experience. It can speak to the child in all of us and a way to move fluidly in time and space. Only animation can take us inside the world of this ten year old boy living through a traumatizing war.

We are a creative team of film producers and animators all working together, and what we first need to create is something called an animatic. Think of an animatic as a rough visual draft of the whole film. Once we get that done we can start pitching Boy from War to film studios to secure the final funding and make this a reality.

My mentors in Chicago, former historian and author Studs Terkel, and documentary filmmaker Gordon Quinn, taught me that if you tell your story truthfully and clearly you will connect with others. And I believe this. With so much media distortion out there about marginalized communities, it’s an act of rebellion to tell your story truthfully. This film needs to be inserted into our culture to shed light on these ignored stories. This is how we make the world a better place, by humanizing these ignored stories in order to connect and generate empathy.

We are currently living in a time of hostility and violence toward people from the Middle East and refugees escaping war. Our president has been framing us as the ‘other,’ as a people that are not part of America. To vilify refugees, to see people fleeing danger as a danger themselves, it’s evil. It says that we’ve lost something as Americans. This film will break through that nonsense and tell a true story, a real story about triumph and a shared human experience.

We have launched a campaign to start getting this animatic going and paid for. If you can help us financially to raise $15,000 we would be so appreciative. We are looking for direct contributions or matching contributions or just help getting the word out.

This film will be beautiful, entertaining and accessible to a wide audience. With your help, we can start telling real stories about our shared human experience. Even if you cannot help financially, I hope you can share this post with others through social media or email.

As a filmmaker, I keep returning to my own story as a vehicle to shed light on these issues. Everything helps and thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate you!

With love and respect,

Click here to support this film. 

Jack Shaheen

Very sad to hear about the passing of Dr. Jack Shaheen. He’s the author of an important book called Reel Bad Arabs, about how Hollywood vilifies Muslims and Arabs in film and television. He’s an inspiration to so many of us that came from the Middle East and grew up in the United States. He clearly and accurately pointed out the racism in American media and how it effected the perception of a whole people.

Part of his biography from Aljazeera: Born in Pennsylvania in 1935 to Lebanese immigrants, Shaheen obtained a PhD at the University of Missouri and would later go on to receive two Fulbright teaching awards. He was a professor emeritus at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a visiting scholar at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies. He worked extensively in the media industry, and was a former Middle East affairs consultant for CBS News. With the help of organisations such as the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), he created scholarships for Arab-American students to study media.

Dr. Jack was also our advisor on American Arab and he’s written about my film Nice Bombs. He’s someone I consider an academic hero. Rest in peace Dr. Jack.

Our last email correspondence:

“Please stay in touch and keep the faith, my friend.
BEST wishes, Dr Jack”