THE SHEIK AND I
Directed by Caveh Zahedi
Official Selection, 2012 SXSW Film Festival
Filmmaker Caveh Zehedi is not one to shy from the camera or from controversy. Known for his inventive, funny, and contentious first-person essay films that provoke both audiences and his cinematic subjects – films like I Don’t Hate Las Vegas Anymore, in which he persuades his family to take Ecstasy with him in order to prove the existence of God, and I Am a Sex Addict, in which he chronicles his ten-year struggle to overcome an addiction to prostitutes – Zahedi is back to his antics with THE SHEIK AND I, and this time he’s commissioned to do it.
Invited by a Middle Eastern Biennial to direct a film on the theme of “art as a subversive act,” Zehedi decides to make a film about making “art as a subversive act,” all while attempting to poke fun at the Sheik of Sharjah, the emirate’s ruler and financier of the Biennial. Not amused by Zahedi’s subversion, the Biennial bans the film for blasphemy and Zahedi is threatened with arrest and a fatwa.
Amazingly, this is where Zahedi thrives as a filmmaker. Where most would count a shut-down as a loss, he revels in the obstacles and makes the friction – itself full of humor, irony, and performance – the content of the film itself. In lampooning its source of funding, THE SHEIK AND I becomes more than just a film about the making of a film, but rather the unmaking of it – and the unmaking of our assumptions about creation and correctness. –Joseph Mangat