Kieran's Review of The Sheik and I

  • 17 months ago via Movies on iPhone
    The Sheik and I

    The Sheik and I (2012)

    I thoroughly enjoyed this film even though it was apparent that most of the audience (about a dozen people at an Australian independent film festival) I viewed it with did not. This documentary explores everything from film-making itself through freedom of speech and artistic endeavor, parental concern (the director Caveh Zahedi travels to the emirate of Sharjah with his wife and two year old son whom he integrates into fictional scenes within the film and there are some lovely touches as he documents this process), religion, cultural difference between the UAE and the West, Western ignorance, and so on. While he plays with Western stereotypes of Arabs in order to be deliberately subversive, it becomes obvious in the process of meeting the subjects of this film that these are, for the most part, erroneous and the players in the film are as Zahedi points out "cool people". Instead he focuses more on the road-blocks he starts to encounter while attempting to make and subsequently screen the film from the very people who had the film commissioned.

    The film dragged on just a little towards the end but largely because of the ongoing evolution of the project from short film commissioned for the Sharjah Biennial (supposedly without constraints) to a more complex documentary feature and above all the film remains entertaining. The director necessarily goes on to explain the outcome of the film, as it was originally commissioned with the associated political and legal entanglements, and all the involved parties right through to it's reception at South by Southwest in March 2012 edited into the closing credits. This has been compared to the satirical works of Sasha Baron Cohen and, while like Cohen's films, it uses satire to explode stereotypes, it always does so sincerely. Zahedi never claims to be anything that he is not, nor does he deliberately go out of his way to ridicule his subjects. Indeed, with one individual in particular, initial xenophobia and suspicion appear to give way to enduring empathy.

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