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|8:30PM||Live Music by Shusmo|
|11:30PM-1:00AM||After-party: Open Bar at Matchless (557 Manhattan Ave. @ Driggs)|
The Sheik and I (Caveh Zahedi | USA | 108 min.)
Caveh Zahedi built a reputation as a naughty provocateur with surreal docu-comedies like A Little Stiff and I Am a Sex Addict, but his latest effort rises above self-interest and takes a stab at instigating change. And he might be facing a fatwah for it.
The Sheik and I, a diary film about Zahedi's messy experience working on commission in the United Arab Emirates, certainly contains a mischievous edge. However, Zahedi has also made an alarming testament to the challenges of sincere expression in societies opposed to its function. It's a daring work made with reckless abandon -- in other words, both irresponsible and necessary.
Hired by the Sharjah Art Foundation to create a short film for the UAE emirate's biennial celebration, Zahedi faces a paradoxical task. The genial and apparently open-minded curators of the foundation, avowed fans of his work, task him with creating a film illustrating "art as a subversive act." But they also establish a few puzzling restrictions from the outset, including the ominous edict to avoid mocking the Sheik of Sharjah. Though Zahedi frequently says he doesn't want to put anyone in danger, his resulting project repeatedly does just that by documenting the process behind its creation.
Grabbing his wife, their toddler and a few young assistants, Zahedi eagerly heads off to Sharjah with every intention of pushing any button he can find. The filmmaker conceives of a crass B-movie about the kidnapping of the Sheik and insists the unseen leader play the role himself. That's only one of many requests that cause his poor hosts to stonewall him in apparent fear for their lives. The Sheik & I chronicles Zahedi's inability to make his movie. Whether or not you agree with his tactics, the filmmaker's approach is undeniably funny, provocative and fearless.
- Eric Kohn