Najim Shuhayeb spends his time of reflection at home sitting in front of his radio listening to smooth jazz, staring out the window and waiting.
He envisions putting a camera in front of him, and communicating through film the memories evoked by the music heâ€™s listening to.
Najim reminisces about better times back in Iraq, when he was studying film at Baghdad University. As a student, he used film to explore the complex relationships between men and women. He also recalls the ten long years in the 1980s that he served in Iraq as a soldier and a reporter during the Iran-Iraq war. In his reporting, he used film to tell the stories of his people and of his fellow soldiers who died in the line of duty.
â€œGod gives us pictures to explain our experiences, so you canâ€™t explain a picture,â€ Najim explains. â€œThe picture can explain itself.â€
Najim also remembers a more peaceful time when he used film and television as a way to rekindle his childhood through dubbing the voice of Ernie from the popular American childrenâ€™s television series, Sesame Street. In the â€˜90s, he was sucÂ¬cessful and happy, teaching film arts to students from the university level down to childrenâ€™s theatre workshops. No matÂ¬ter what he has been doing, Najim has found joy through his devotion to film.
However, since moving to the United States on June 26, 2007, with his wife, three kids, and nothing more than two heavy bags full of his favorite books, Najim has not yet been given the opportunity to share his stories and images through film.
â€œLet me be honest with you. I canâ€™t be normal here without working in my field,â€ he says. â€œMy field is art as a TV and movie director. Whatever I do, I do it successfully but I cannot persuade myself about [other] jobs. I need to go back to my profession. My profession is very important for my community, for our country… the United States.â€
Najim has applied to many colleges, universities, and major news networks in the Chicago area. So far he has not been offered a position. But this hasnâ€™t deterred Najim, as he tries to find programs to assist him in getting a graduate degree in film. Until then, he will keep collecting and storing his film ideas in anticipation of an outlet.
Working with Upwardly Global
Upwardly Globalâ€™s mission is founded on the principle that when highly-skilled and experienced immigrant professionals are unemployed or underemployed in low-skill jobs, this constitutes a waste of talent. Najimâ€™s experience as an art instructor, a television director, and an independent cinematic producer is grossly misaligned with his reality, in which his artistic vision sits untouched. In the U.S., Najim searches for an opportunity to create, produce, and improvise; he longs for his chance to contribute. Najimâ€™s background as an artist with an in-depth understanding of Middle Eastern culture is invaluable at a time when the U.S. is so heavily involved in this area of the world. Upwardly Global has worked with Najim to advocate for an opportunity where he can contribute to society; together we are hopeful that we will find the path that will allow this artistâ€™s voice to ring strong yet again.