Soak film review in Horror Estremo

[NOTE: This is auto translated from the original review in Italian  from horrorestremo.altervista.org]

Here is SOAK, the first work of the volcanic Iraqi director and artist Usama Alshaibi known, best known for the extreme anthology SOLAR ANUS CINEMA (with the exaggerated CONVULSION EXPULSION) and PROFANE, film of 2012, to date his latest film work. An abstract, confused and logical work that mixes memories, desires, fears and alienation, centering on the theme of sexually transmitted diseases and violence against women in order to fulfill their somewhat distorted sexual and mental desires.

We follow the vicissitudes of a boy traveling in Southeast Asia, probably in Thailand, who dreams of sexual encounters with fetish practices such as the suffocation of the occasional partner. After an encounter with a white prostitute, she ends up getting infected and then starts bleeding and losing pieces of penis. Then begins a journey halfway between spiritual research, the obsession with new sexual emotions, with always alive the desire to stifle the prostitute on duty, and finally in unhealthy desire of emasculation ……

Experimental work at the highest levels, where the director absorbs and draws heavily from places full of colors and costumes Thai, Vietnamese and Southeast Asia in general, including rituals and animal sacrifices, jungle and powerful vegetation, transsexuals and phosphorescent prostitutes, shady European characters and ambiguous female figures. Nothing is fully illustrated and violence is never shown completely, always braked and confused, like the mind of its protagonist, suffering from a repressed desire for gratuitous violence against women, lost in a delirious limbo. The finale does not illuminate the dark sides of this experimental film, leaving doubts about what is real and what has only been dreamed of. An alienating and magnetic work, perhaps too hermetic, where the unmistakable style of the Iraqi director will end up dragging us along, together with his little limpid protagonist, in a world without certain references and mental and physical agonies, daughters of the sexual fears of our unhappy age!

(by SubItaFrancescoVecchi)

Film review for Profane

“There’s a cinematic mastery lying at the very core of Profane…”

Great review for my underground film Profane. Read more at the The Independent Film Critic. 

“Kara portrays Muna masterfully by refusing to peel away the layers of her complex persona. Profane isn’t a film for the casual moviegoer, because it requires active listening and participation.”
&
“The original music by Ehsan Ghoreishi is haunting and deeply felt, while Alshaibi’s camera work is at times stunning in its intimacy and its heartbreak. While it may seem absurd to mention in a film with so much nudity (and there’s a lot!), Maha Moda deserves kudos for her costume design here. ”

Exploring Identity Through Film by Mariam Elba

American Arab film review from The Islamic Monthly. From the article:

A lot of what Alshaibi said in the film resonated with me as an Arab-American. He spoke about watching movies as a child that grossly misrepresented Arabs as mindless and sex-starved, and seeing violent Arabs come at Michael J. Fox’s character in the film Back to the Future. Many times, I was fed the same narratives as a student. In my Advanced Placement World History class, we were shown the film Not Without My Daughter, which was full of bigoted depictions of Muslims and Iranians in post-revolution Iran. It was cringe-worthy to sit through and to this day, the movie continues to remind me of how others may perceive me as an American Muslim: a threat.
(read more)whole family

American Arab review in Al-Jadid Magazine

In Usama Alshaibi’s autobiographical documentary, the director recalls watching the popular comedy/adventure “Back to The Future” (1985) in a movie theater in Iowa City. He recounts how the appearance, out of nowhere, of a gang of “Libyans” determined to kill Doc, the movie’s loveable mentor, forced him to confront his own divided and complicated identity. The event abruptly dislocated Alshaibi from his role as an American teenager (something he longed to be) into the Other – the caricatured, malevolent, and despised Arab.

Watching “Back to the Future” in movie theaters in Pittsburgh and Houston, this reviewer and her brother experienced similar reactions, coming to regard such moments as flash points for those both American and Arab, in whatever ways individuals choose to define themselves. As Alshaibi demonstrates in this personal film, these flash points have become more numerous, troubling, and dangerous for American Arabs/Arab Americans in the 14 years since 9/11.

– See more at: http://aljadid.com/content/un-hyphenated-complexities#sthash.JUfASoEx.dpuf

Title_Full

Underground Film Journal Reviews American Arab

Amal Family
“American Arab does not attempt to provide a definitive statement about the Arab experience in America. That might make a fine documentary some day — and Alshaibi would be excellent at making it — but here he is more of the inquisitive artist, seeking some kind of answer to questions that seem to keep shifting with each major life event, from the death of his brother to a brutal hate crime assault in 2011 to the birth of his beautiful daughter, Muneera.”-By Mike Everlet
Read more

American Arab in the Chicago press

American Arab is playing Sunday, April 6 at the Chicago Underground Film Festival and I’m in town promoting the film and getting ready for our big premiere. The film has been featured in the Chicago Reader, The Chicago Sun Time and the Chicago Tribune. Here are some links and quotes.

1779665_812618455433633_1061824347_n

“It’s our responsibility to change the visual landscape. The people who are making these Hollywood films have a cartoonish conception of what a Puerto Rican is and what an Arab is. They put the simplest two-dimensional character on the screen, another movie copies it, and they become cookie cutters. We have to beat that down and mock it for what it is. Like, can you imagine if someone did blackface now? They would be laughed at. But at one point that was an acceptable form of entertainment. Hollywood uses brown-face now—Mexicans and Latin Americans are consistently used to play Arabs in Hollywood. Our responsibility is to get in there, talk about this stuff, and change what beauty is—and change what a leading character can be. What it means to be American needs to be reexamined.”

Two film festivals, two indie filmmakers, one discussion on filmmaking ethics, Usama Alshaibi and Carlos Jiménez Flores have different filmmaking styles, but they take a similar stance on mainstream depictions of race and ethnicity in popular media. Chicago Reader, April, 2014.

1531775_737121702989318_1103425518_n
Chicago Underground Film Festival gives little productions a big stage, Chicago Sun Times, April, 2014.

Underground films see the light through fest- Chicago Tribune, April, 2014.