DCP, duration 70 minutes, Yemen, 2004-2006
All Rights Reserved
The Convert, the Rapper and the Country is a portrait of two men, (both Americans) who reveal, in personal anecdotes, what hope and aspirations made them move to Yemen, and a third man, from Yemen, who provides context about the country itself.
For rapper AJ, of Yemeni descent, a prolonged stay in the land of his parents seemed to offer a chance to accelerate his slow music career, whereas Siraj Mohamed, who hails from Washington, was looking for a connection with fellow orthodox muslims, away from the temptations of Western society.
Sporting the swag of the American ghetto, rapper AJ soon finds out that the Yemeni audience is not ready for Western music and everybody just wants to get some kind of personal gain out of him, while Siraj, meanwhile, is confronted with backward social customs and an anti-American sentiment among his Yemeni peers, as he realises there is boon to the civility of Western culture after all.
A third man, Abdulghani el Eryani––descendant of a local aristocratic family with dissident tendencies––talks eloquently of the historic and political difficulties shaping the state of affairs in his country, and the pending threat of chaos as civil war looms large.
He also takes two elderly American men and a young woman on a trip through the country, where they fire Kalashnikovs, lay besides a swimming pool and enter a forbidden islamic heritage site while remarking the incredibly blue sky above them.
The film is a documentary, but, like my other documentaries (The Paradox of Being Taken Seriously and Albino), sculpted for its formal and visual qualities, rather than as a vehicle to inform the audience on a topic.
It is also a slice of my personal life, testimony to the three odd years I lived in Sana'a and spent my days chewing the local stimulant qat and roaming the city for good scenes to film.
The Rapper and the Convert is a shortened version of The Convert, the Rapper and the Country. Edited from the same footage, it focusses only on rapper AJ and convert Siraj.
The edit is from 2010.