The Sheik and I

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Commissioned to make a film on the theme of “art as a subversive act” as part of a government-funded arts festival in the United Arab Emirates, button-pushing indie filmmaker Caveh Zahedi (I Am a Sex Addict) is cautioned that while he can do most anything he wants, there are a few restrictions. Chief among them is that he may not mock the nation’s ruler Sheik Sultan bin Mohammad al-Qasimi, who also happened to finance the Biennial. So naturally, Zahedi decides to do just that, taking what sounds like an irresistible opportunity to unleash his own special brand of satire and then running wild with it, boldly and hilariously flaunting both his western-ness and his ignorance of Middle Eastern customs as he desperately attempts to finish his commissioned film. However, his antics fail to amuse the Biennial administration, and Zahedi’s film is banned for blasphemy and he is threatened with arrest and fatwa. Backed into a corner in which freedom of speech becomes a dirty (and dangerous) word, Zahedi’s film becomes a pawn in a reckless game in which the filmmaker dares his nemesis The Sheik to do his worst. (Dir. by Caveh Zahedi, 2012, US/United Arab Emirates, 104 mins., Not Rated, Factory 25) Digital