Usama goes on a journey, real and internal, and ends up in a fantasy town called Baghdad in Iowa.
Usama Alshaibi has always stood out with his filmmaking because not only has he developed a peculiar style from making short film after short film, but he has an interesting background as seen in his documentary "Nice Bombs" and "American Arab". He has blended the two styles (experimental filmmaking and documentaries about Iraq) in the short films, but with the feature film "Profane" he managed to speak to a much wider audience. I consider "Baghdad, Iowa" to be even closer to the middle of the spectrum, but as a much more psychological take on it.
It's hard to truly speak of the plot in "Baghdad, Iowa", because the movie is to be interpreted by the viewer in whatever way speaks to you. I am always certain that this also goes for its creator - that Usama too has his own interpretations to what he created. "Baghdad, Iowa" is a surreal piece about a fictional version of Usama Alshaibi and how he takes a journey and ends up in the fictional Baghdad, Iowa. The way there is littered existential thoughts and identity crises.
"Baghdad, Iowa" constantly has a heavy undertone that shows a seriousness to its subject, but as expected from an Usama Alshaibi creation it is executed with playful experimentation in both sound, video and acting. It makes a lot of sense for this to be created as such, because it makes it a lot easier for viewers worldwide, and of any culture, to replace "Baghdad" with their own internal world. Was this the intention of Usama Alshaibi? I'm not so sure, but none of that matters because when a film is unleashed on an audience it is also theirs to take in. "Baghdad, Iowa", from Usama's point of view, is most likely a much more personal film than I give it credit for. My review is in no way taking that away from him. There's a lot of emphasis on pain and your past, and that's perhaps what makes it such an easy movie to put yourself into.
This short film features some of the most stunning cinematography to date in an Usama Alshaibi film. Perhaps it's the free style of experimenting and the use of good equipment, but there are many scenes where the most impressive feat is the lighting. I'm especially talking about the scenes when he reaches the town of Baghdad.
There's much to dig into with "Baghdad, Iowa". As much as with any longer creation of Usama Alshaibi's, really. It might not surpass "Profane" or some of his short films from "Solar Anus Cinema" that I hold so dear in pure enjoyment, but it stands well above the standard experimental independent films. You're likely to get a glimpse of the real Usama Alshaibi's life and thoughts in this, but it works best if you open it up wider than that and interpret it with your own self in mind.