Artist Statement about the Film
In my film, Bitter with a Shy Taste of Sweetness, I take an experimental approach to navigate the meaning of fate in Baghdad and the concept of survival in Southern California. I contrast my fragmented past growing up in war-torn Baghdad with my surreal California present. Moving to California and looking at this intense quality of a seemingly utopian, happy, clean, and wealthy landscape sparked memories from when I was a child in Iraq. I still remember how I looked forward to Thursday nights as a kid, when I could stay up with my family to watch a Hollywood film on our one-channel television in our home in Baghdad. America on the screen was fascinating; the landscape seemed not of the Earth to me. I never imagined that one day I would live in Southern California, in the strange landscape of those films. Visually I wanted to represent California through non-traditional modes of cinematic expression where my current landscape becomes foreign yet familiar, disrupted by my childhood memories. The camera tilts or spins, making the beautiful Southern California beaches and mountains jarring while the sound distorts the bright colors of the landscape. Through second person writing and shrilling visuals, the film aims to make the viewer feel off-balance, disoriented, and estranged from the landscape and content, offering them the dislocating feeling of survival and immigration.
Saif Alsaegh is a United States-based filmmaker from Baghdad. Much of Saif’s work deals with the contrast between the landscape of his youth in Baghdad growing up as part of the Chaldean minority in the nineties and early 2000s, and the U.S. landscape where he currently lives. His films have screened in festivals including Cinéma du Réel, Kurzfilm Hamburg, Kassel Dokfest, and in galleries and museums including the Wisconsin Triennial at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and Rochester Contemporary Art Center. He received his MFA in film from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.