Usama Alshaibi, an Iraqi American filmmaker, confronts the issues on identity and perception toward Arab Americans in today's society. Alshaibi sheds light on the multifaceted Arab American experience in post-9/11 United States and illuminates a culture that consists of a diverse group of identities and voices.
American Arab is full of troubling images [...] anything but an anti-American screed [...] rather disturbing.
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.
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. Identity is a funny thing. We like to think of ourselves in concrete, non-shifting terms, but our identity is constantly shifting. Arab. American. Artist. Father. Son. Brother. Alshaibi is all of these things. He is also one of our most important filmmakers, a fact further defined by this engaging and enlightening documentary.
Alshaibi deftly mixes archival footage, interviews, animation, and music to engage the viewer in an open conversation about a provocative topic. While the film gives an important voice to the hopes and frustrations of several generations of Arab Americans, there is also much that is relatable to audiences regardless of creed or culture. Billed as a “Coming of Arab Story,” the struggle with acceptance and search for identity is a universal one. There are no easy answers in “American Arab,” but it’s a conversation well worth having.
News footage of anti-Arab demonstrations and clips from such films as Total Recall, Back to the Future, and Delta Force vividly show how public perception can be shaped by news reports, movies, and documentaries. This perceptive video tells a universal story about immigrants’ struggles to assimilate and seek the often elusive promise of the American dream. A potent discussion starter.
American Arab picks up this thread of personal narrative and explores what it means to be an Arab-American, post-9/11. Further, in the great tradition of American personal documentary film, Alshabi also struggles with what it means to be a filmmaker who happens to be Arab-American. Less concerned with aesthetics than ideas, he uses the camera as a tool to dig for answers about identity, art and filmmaking that are often overlooked.
It's giving voice to people who have been marginalized—and when they are presented in mainstream American media, it's rarely from their perspective... At the same time, the movie doesn't feel confrontational. It feels like the start of a conversation, rather than a provocation.
Probes what you might call the Arab-American dilemma... Alshaibi's family is smart and complicated, and you immediately have an emotional connection to these people.
American Arab is a gift, an important document and beacon of hope for a community and people too often misunderstood, with disastrous consequences.
Recommend American Arab to birthers who are convinced that Obama is a Muslim.
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