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American Arab

Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Usama Ashaibi
Directed by Usama Ashaibi
DVD, color, 60 min.
Jr. High - General Adult
Sociology, Middle East, Film

Reviewed by Anne Shelley, Music/Multimedia Librarian, Milner Library, Illinois State University

Date Entered: 10/9/2014

In this participatory documentary, filmmaker Usama Alshaibi explores what it means to have Arab heritage in post-911 America. The film includes a fair amount of biographical coverage of Alshaibi—who was born in Iraq but grew up in the United States—and his family. In addition to interviewing a number of fellow Arab Americans who had experienced racism, Alshaibi himself spent time examining an event in which he believed he was a victim of a hate crime. He filmed himself talking about the experience and how reactions in the media made him rethink his own identity. Much of the doc is a mashup of media clips from American news coverage of hate crimes against Muslims immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the 2008 presidential campaign, and many clips in-between. Alshaibi also incorporates a number of well-known feature film clips that portray Middle Eastern people in garb as terrorists. Alshaibi presents a very personal and exposed story of identity without finding a straightforward answer of what being a Muslim, an American, an Arab, or anything else really means to oneself or to those around that person. He is able to leave the viewer feeling untroubled by this ambiguity, however, and I think that is a testament to his talent and this work. Recommended