Major: Film And Television Production
School: University of Southern California
Sponsor: UC Irvine Muslim Alumni Scholarship
Ali Kareem, born in Al Hilla, Babil, left Iraq at age 6 with his family to escape the Saddam Hussein regime. His family lived in Jordan, and then later on moved to Damascus, Syria. His experience living in one of the most diverse centers of the Middle Eastern world was memorable. Living in Syria taught him a number of things such as: learning about different schools of thought within Islam, recognizing the different cultural practices of the Arab world, and gaining an appreciation for its diversity. Ali’s experiences growing up in Iraq, Jordan, and Syria affected his understanding, interpretation and expression of the world. Eventually, Ali immigrated to the United Sates as a refugee when he was 10 years old, landing in Dallas, Texas.
Ali spent his teen years in Dallas making skateboarding videos and acting in just about every production his high school’s theater department put on, and eventually winning an award for his role in the play, “The Little Foxes”. After graduating, he began making short films. At age 19 he directed a project titled, “The Time of Ramadan”, featuring Muslim artist Fez Meghani. The six minute video illustrates the struggles of a single-parent Muslim American family and the ways in which faith, especially during Ramadan, impacts their everyday life. Ali was featured on CNN International, where he was interviewed by CNN’s Errol Barnett about the video as well as his experiences as a Muslim living in the west. Soon after the CNN interview, people of all nationalities, faiths, and ages began reaching out to Ali, explaining how they were moved by his work and the positive representation of Muslims they rarely get to see in the media.
Ali went on to study Film & Television Production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles. In Spring 2012, Ali wrote, directed, and produced a short film titled “Mehdi”, about a young Iraqi boy whose innocence is lost due to violence. The film is a tale of contemporary war told through the eyes of the children caught in it. “Mehdi” has been recently invited to the Sofia Film Festival in Bulgaria. In spring of 2013 he was selected as as one of only three students to direct an advanced project funded by the USC School of Cinematic Arts. As a result, Ali directed “Matchbox”, a short about a chance meeting between two strangers in a mid-western barn, and the effect their meeting has on the two characters.”Matchbox” premiered in May, 2013 and is currently being submitted to film festivals.
Ali hopes to continue making films that highlight the shared humanity between different people, whether they are Iraqi children caught in war, Muslims in America, or two strangers in a barn in the Midwest.
Ali graduated and is making films. in 2015, he won the ISF National Film Grant for $20,000.