a thesis film by hanna el- mohandess
AN ALL (ARAB)AMERICAN STORY
Iman Sherif, a 22 year old Egyptian-American Muslim, is the perfect Arab daughter; She is the daughter of her mosque’s beloved Imam, she studies law at NYU, and she sneaks out almost every night to perform stand-up at various clubs & make fun of the obvious juxtapositions in her ‘Arab’ life and her ‘American’ one. When 9/11 complicates the delicate balance of her two worlds, Iman must find a way to get her career, her family life, and the family business back on track -- all while deciding whether she wants to live the life that her parents want for her (with the suitor they want for her) or if she’s ready to break away from their expectations and pursue the dream, and the boy, she wants.
This film isn’t about rejecting family, culture, or religion. Iman's story isn't one of assimilation. Does My Head Look Big in This? instead explores how one navigates belonging to two cultures at once while somehow staying true to both. This film aims to portray the unique experience of being a first-generation Arab-American Muslim in the midst of the only tragedy that could target all elements of that identity. It's the first film of its kind to probe at how to mourn a devastating blow to your country as someone who is widely seen as its perpetrator.
Does My Head Look Big In This? diverges from Eurocentric film not only by featuring an all Arab cast or telling a story that has never been told from this unique perspective, but also through its narrative’s genre-bending. It is at times a dramatic period piece and at others a lighthearted romantic comedy. The blending of these two cinematic languages has never truly been explored, therefore making it a difficult concept to explain to many. I see this not as a challenge, but as indicative of the film’s culturally transformative potential. Life is never only a comedy or only a drama, it is everything all at once. This film has the capability of handling themes of love, coming of age, marriage, identity, and family, while also exploring complex theoretical frameworks such as women as symbols of nationalism, Muslim grieving processes post 9.11, the bastardization of Islam and its ideals within western media, comedy as a form of resistance, and the creation and navigation of a new intersectional identity -- as “women” and “Muslim” became both 9.11’s biggest buzzwords, and the two most feared groups in America.
Does My Head Look Big In This? is about a whole bunch of things because people who live in intersectionalities have lives full of intricate particularities. If you feel in any way, shape, or form that you can relate to Iman's story, or if you feel as though you'd like to see Iman's story realized on screen, please consider donating to our film.