ART 4850: The Sheik and I

Posted on: December 3rd, 2013
December 6, 2013 @ 6:00 am

As a native Canadian, Lord Beaverbrook rose to high society and royalty due to his power and influence in England and Canada. His wealth and prominence were instrumental in his efforts and accomplishments to create and compile the world-renowned collection of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. The Mobile Museum of Art links the ideas and realities of royalty across cultures, by presenting Caveh Zahedi’s documentary, The Sheik and I.

This movie explores the wishes of royalty (a sheik in the Middle East), its effects on a culture and society, and how an American filmmaker is able to work within these constraints… or perhaps not. In a disjointed combination of film footage, cartoon animation and blank screens, the film maintains a light tone despite the challenges.

Zahedi describes the documentary as his effort to use art as a subversive act and simply to depict “Arabs as cool.” According to Zahedi, “My films are controversial and tackle difficult issues, including documentary ethics.”

Caveh Zahedi began making films while studying philosophy at Yale University. After graduation, Caveh moved to Paris to try to raise money for a film about French poet Arthur Rimbaud, but failed to raise even one centime. He tried to interest French television in a film about the turn-of-the-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, but again failed. He devoted himself to an experimental music video of a Talking Heads song, which took him two years to complete, and which was subsequently rejected by David Byrne.

Caveh’s latest film, The Sheik & I, began as an invitation by a Middle Eastern Biennial to make a film on the theme of “art as a subversive act.” Told that he can do whatever he wants except make fun of the Sheik, who rules the country and finances the Biennial, Zahedi decides to do just that, turning his camera on the Biennial itself. But his court jester antics fail to amuse. Zahedi’s film is banned for blasphemy and he is threatened with arrest and a fatwa. The film premieres at the 2012 South by Southwest film festival.

For more about The Sheik and I, Click Here.