Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 28, No.16

May 20, 2004


Being Osama


Still from Being Osama

Being Osama, directed by Tim Schwab and Mahmoud Kaabour, will have its premiere in Room H-110 of the Henry F. Hall Building on May 31.

The documentary, made for the CBC series The Passionate Eye, will be shown at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and the filmmakers and participants will be on hand for discussion.

Being Osama tells the stories of six Montrealers named Osama, and opens a window on what it’s like to be an Arab living in Canada in the post-9/11 world.

Tim Schwab teaches filmmaking and documentary film and television in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia. He explained in an e-mail how this film came about.

“In the first class I taught at Concordia — Filmmaking I in the Cinema Department — I had a student named Mahmoud Kaabour.

“Mahmoud was from Lebanon, had lived through the civil war and the Israeli invasion of Beirut, and had developed a background in theatre before coming to Canada to study cinema. He was a very good student and won an award for the film he did in my class, which concerned Arab identity and the immigration experience.

“After the class ended, I lost touch with him until a year ago in December, when I bumped into him on the street. He had graduated from Concordia, had been doing various things to keep body and soul together, and had a development deal to do a film about the Arab community in Montreal by following the lives of several men named Osama.

“We ended up doing the film together, and it was a great and very enlightening experience, introducing me to whole world I did not know existed in this city.

“The Osamas come from a variety of backgrounds, but two of them have definite Concordia connections. One is a graduate student in Computer Science who is very active in political groups on campus, another is an undergraduate in Political Science who is quite involved in campus Muslim activities; another is a noted composer and musician on the Montréal music scene.

As for Schwab himself, he has worked for many years as a documentary filmmaker in Canada and in the States, and won the award for Distinguished Achievement in Documentary from the International Documentary Associa-tion in 1997.

He came to Concordia in 1996 to do an MFA in cinema production. He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies, teaching advanced film production and documentary film and television, among other things.

The film is open to the public, including the premiere on May 31. It will probably be broadcast on The Passionate Eye next winter.