E.J. Assi and Nada Shouhayib star in Detroit Unleaded, where their characters fall in love in a Detroit gas station.
As an Arab American with a background in media criticism, I often feel like a broken record, calling out the endless stereotypes of Arabs in U.S. popular culture. I long for transgressive representations, those that break the mold and offer audiences thought-provoking stories about humanity. When I find them, I exclaim, “Alhamdulillah!”—an Arabic expression that literally means, “Praise be to God,” but culturally translates as: “Hell, yeah!” The independent film Detroit Unleaded deserves such a shout-out.
A portion of the poster for new documentary Fed Up and an factoid from the film.
The line between legitimate health advocacy and body shaming is a precarious one. So what does it look like when yet another food documentary sets out to “revolutionize” the way Americans think and eat, and also “cure the obesity epidemic”? Well, let’s say that things get messy.
I grew up seeing certain images in fairy tales. These images depicted a European, Victorian world that I wasn’t a part of and didn’t come from: bouncy dresses, British aristocracy, long robes, sharp accents, castles, virtue, and power. We were taught to revere these images, to associate royalty with Europe, to learn the order of kings, queens, princesses, and lords. But rarely did these images reflect us. Until now.
I was going to skip seeing Only Lovers Left Alive because the promotional blurb described the plot like this: “Set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangier, an underground musician, deeply depressed by the direction of human activities, reunites with his resilient and enigmatic lover.”
The Women on Waves ship heads to international waters to dispense the abortion pill to women in need.
The documentary Vessel begins starkly, with the reveal of a typed plea from a woman in Morocco in 2012. Her words are full of desperation: she needs to get an abortion but the procedure is illegal in her country.
In most tales of alien infiltration, the extraterrestrial life force arrives heavily armed: death rays, mysterious pods, killer black ooze, and the like. In unsetting and surreal sci-fi film Under the Skin, Scarlett Johansson arrives equipped only with a sexy female form, a winning damsel in distress routine, and a robotic desire to consume. Of course, she is a highly effective predator.
At the beginning of the Finding Vivian Maier, numerous friends, relatives, and former employers of the recently discovered Chicago street photographer and nanny try to describe her succinctly: she’s eccentric, bold, private, paradoxical. Above all, say friends, if she were alive, she would never have allowed this cinematic exposition of her life.
In the two weeks before the theatrical release of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac: Vol 1, I watched every film von Trier has ever written and directed. This included the three hardcore pornographies produced by his company Zentropa. I will neither confirm nor deny whether the porn films are successful in their intent.
The proceedings of the infamous Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Senate hearings in 1991 perhaps felt like a revolution at the time. A black woman challenged her boss’s bad behavior on a national stage and made sexual harassment part of our national conversation. On film over 20 years later, the entire episode feels like a relevant counter-point to “leaning in.” The professional world, the documentary reminds us, isn’t a cute place to be a woman. Anita Hill had to act against the interest of her career to do what she knew was right. Instead of leaning in, she called out her boss. For that, she’s earned both immense respect and scorn.