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Filmmaker Usama Alshaibi Beaten, Alleges Hate Crime

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 8, 2011 8:20PM

2011_03_usama.jpg When filmmaker Usama Alshaibi moved to Fairfield, Iowa after 16 years in Chicago, he was still at work on American Arab, a film about racism and identity in America after 9/11. Proving his mother prescient in suggesting that maybe he should change his first name and becoming a living testament to the racial prejudices still aflame in his adopted homeland was surely not how he wanted to go about it. Iowa police are treating seriously filmmaker Alshaibi's allegation that the beating he received after wandering into a party early Sunday was a hate crime. According to his statement:

As I entered someone asked me who I was. I told them my name — Usama. At that point I was hit by someone in the sides and the face. My glasses were knocked off my face. Someone said 'How dare you come in here, you sand nigger. Fucking Usama Bin Laden, you sand nigger.' Four young men began beating me as I tried to leave. I told them to please stop and that I was leaving. I ended up on the ground outside the house where they continued to kick me in the face repeatedly, and kept calling me 'sand nigger.' I tried to cover my face with my arms to block the blows.

Alshaibi had been initially been unclear about the location of the attack due to his inebriation and confusion immediately afterward so police have only now found the location of the alleged incident. He admits to using "bad judgement" wandering into the party, but points to growing up among the party hopping neighborhoods of Iowa City to help explain why he thought his neighbors would be more sociable.

The 41-year old Columbia grad's 2006 documentary Nice Bombs, about his return to his birthplace Baghdad and reunion with his family for the first time in over 20 years, caught our eye here and racked up critical plaudits in its exploration of the the tangle of opinions about Iraq and the war from the perspective of an Iraqi-American. His latest, Profane, will have its U.S. Premiere at the Boston Underground Film Festival later this month.

Alshaibi insists this was no publicity stunt, saying "This isn't how I would promote my film... I thought I was going to die."