Official selection of the 6th annual Mosaic World Film Festival.

** FINALIST - BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM (STUDENT CATEGORY) - MWFF 2013 **

Our MWFF filmmaker survey for Dana Shihadah - Director of "A Life of Salaam" and "I Found North", both of which will screen at Mosaic World Film Festival - 2013.

College or High School: Spring semester graduate of Rock Valley College, transferring to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the fall.

Hometown: Lynwood, IL

What was your inspiration for the "A Life of Salaam"?
While growing up for years in the country of Saudi Arabia I was constantly surrounded by friends and family members who were Muslims and became very familiar with the religion of Islam and its followers. I would visit the US once a year, allowing me to experience both cultures. Once 9/11 occurred, I found my visits to the United States to be strangely different. I began to notice a growing negativity toward Muslims and anyone who seemed to look Arab. I was bewildered by this, knowing that the claims that Americans were making about Islam were all wrong, that they had chosen to define over a billion people through the acts of a few. As I have grown older, this issue has had a heavy place on my heart, knowing that true peace between people cannot be achieved when one side does not have true understanding of the other. This is not how we were meant to live. My goal with this film is to shed light upon the fears and lies that have been spread about Muslims and their religion, to promote open minds and hearts. There is too much time wasted blaming and not enough spent mending. I want to clarify misconceptions and help bring people together, living in peace like we were meant to be.

Who are your film influences?
Although growing up I did not have a substantial amount of access to films, there are some that have stuck by me through the years. Documentaries have had major impact on my style, even when I didn't have a shelf full of the "classics." I have always loved the lower-budget, independent films that experiment rather than incorporate exploding robots, or that put the character's inner turmoil and realistic challenges than aliens invading the earth. I don't want to sound like a snob, so I will mention that I have a special place in my heart for Disney and Pixar films. Yup, they so influence my work. No shame. Interestingly enough, my major influences have changed quite a bit over the past year. I would say that I have been profoundly moved by Russian silent films, especially by how raw they are through filming on location and with nearly non-existent budgets. Also, I love their portrayal of true life and even the ugliness that some films tend to ignore to make them prettier. I appreciate the not-so-appealing aspects, that's what make the films beautiful. They are real.

What is your favorite movie and why?
Toy Story. Why? Well, growing up, it helped me to feel special, like I was important to someone, even if it was a simple toy. It has helped me to also remain a kid. I love the adventures that occur in the everyday life of the characters; they have helped me to view each day in my life as its own adventure, transforming the mundane the exciting. Plus, what kind of kid doesn't like the ideas of your toys being real?

Are you working on anything new we can look forward to?
I'm currently working on a music video of my own (for pleasure) using footage from my travels this summer. I'm also transferring to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this fall to pursue film, so hopefully there will be even more projects created from this next step!

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