The Sheik And I

The Sheik And I

Directed by: Caveh Zahedi
104 minutes

East Coast Premiere

When told he will be subject to no constraints at the UAE’s Sharjah Biennial Art Expo, in which he’s been invited to create a film, Caveh Zahedi (I AM A SEX ADDICT) resists. Surely there must be some limitations? After some prodding, he’s told he can do whatever he wants—except make fun of the Sheik of Sharjah. Zahidi considers this and inquires, “Can I make fun of him a little bit?”

Clearly, Zahedi is a provocateur. There’s something fundamental to him that drives him to probe with his art. “What does this mean?” seems to be his incessant mantra, to the extent that he cannot even get from the airport to his hotel without stopping to reexamine how he got there. THE SHEIK AND I becomes a Möbius strip of reenactments as Zahedi tries to make visible the thoughts in his questioning mind—by filming the reaction to them, a reenactment of the reaction, a reenactment of the reenactment, and so on.

Despite Zahedi’s constant self-examination, it is left to the viewer to interpret his true intentions. Is he a brat who can’t accept that there are some things he simply cannot do in life? Or is he making a political statement? The Sheik’s subjects cannot fully speak their minds for fear of reprisal, but Zahedi appears unable to believe that anyone could truly be punished for such a thing. Is he truly as naïve as he portrays himself to be?

THE SHEIK AND I is another segment of the mosaic examining the difficulty of the Arab world’s emergence into the modern era.

—Brian Tamm