"People need to be able to feel like they're complicated." - Usama Alshaibi on American Arab

Ahead of the film's Chicago premiere at Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF) on April 6th, American Arab director Usama Alshaibi has been in the local press talking about the film's exploration of race, identity and cultural stereotypes, and arguing "what it means to be American needs to be reexamined."

Talking with fellow filmmaker Carlos Jiménez Flores in the Chicago Reader, Usama states:

"I think the United States is starting to see the melting pot happen right now. As the landscape of America is changing, this type of conversation becomes more important and relevant. People need to be able to feel like they're complicated. It's not like there needs to be any tension between you being an American and you being a Puerto Rican. In another way, you can also say, "I abandon both of these cultures," and sort of find your own. One of the people I talk to in the film—his name is Marwan Kamel, his mom's from Poland and his dad's from Syria, and he said something very beautiful and simple: "Allow people the ability to be complex, give them that space to be complex." It's important to allow these stories to be heard, and I think certain filmmakers who have been marginalized in the past also need to be heard."

Usama was also featured in the Chicago Sun-Times' feature on CUFF, with the apt headline of "The Art of Non-Conformity" accompanying his photo (in the print edition only, sadly) and a description of American Arab as an "autobiographical essay on identity with hyphens."

American Arab screens at 8pm on Sunday April 6th at the CUFF. Get tickets here.

Following CUFF in April, American Arab will then play across the American heartland at the Minneapolis / St.Paul International Film Festival, the Kansas City Film Festival, Indiana's River Bend Festival and Ohio's Athens International Film and Video Festival.