The Sheik and I Portland Premiere

The Sheik and I Portland Premiere

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When an American filmmaker is commissioned to make a film for a Middle East Biennial on the theme of 'art as a subversive act,' his film is banned for blasphemy, he is asked to destroy every copy, and he is threatened with arrest.

The Sheik and I
Director: 
Caveh Zahedi
Country: 
USA, United Arab Emirates
Year: 
2012
Runtime: 
104 minutes

Sharjah, a United Arab Emirate, is home to one of the most popular art exhibitions in the Middle East, the Sharjah Biennial. When its curators approach Caveh Zahedi to produce a film, they give him three rules: no frontal nudity; no demeaning the prophet Mohammad; and no disparaging Sharjah's absolute ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi. Zahedi can't stop thinking about the last rule. He wonders who this sheikh is and what cinematic treatment might constitute an insult. His film becomes an investigation to find out, in a thoughtful and uncomfortable ride along the boundary between political power and decorum. Ever the provocateur, Zahedi (I AM A SEX ADDICT, I DON'T HATE LAS VEGAS ANYMORE) boldly, sometimes abrasively questions everyone he meets about the sheikh, while flaunting both his western-ness and ignorance of Middle Eastern customs. Zahedi is by now a thorn in the curators' sides. But even when the biennial's administration demands the destruction of the film, threatening a lawsuit if it is shown, he persists. The Sheik and I insistently, almost maniacally pokes at contradictions until they yield knowledge. And it's from this dedication that the profound, some might say spiritual, beauty of Zahedi's work emerges.

— Sean Uyehara, programmer, San Francisco Film Society

BIO

Writer/director Caveh Zahedi is well known for his self-reflexive and controversial style of filmmaking. His previous feature, I Am a Sex Addict, won the 2005 Gotham Award for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You. He documented a year of his life with footage from every day of a calendar year in 2001's In the Bathtub of the World. Zahedi's second feature, I Don't Hate Las Vegas Anymore, which he claimed was codirected by God, won the Critics' Prize at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 1994. His first feature, A Little Stiff, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1991.

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