October 25, 2023

Alum Sam Shaib’s feature film debut builds on his work on Diversity and Inclusion

By Desa Philadelphia

Sam Shaib ’17 was a founding student member of the School of Cinematic Arts Council for Diversity and Inclusion. He was a consistent presence at all the council’s early meetings, organizing events and proposing solutions to vexing problems around inclusion on campus. So it’s no surprise that the debut feature he wrote and co-produced explores sectarianism in Beirut, his hometown, revealing the downsides of division.
Arzé is the story of a single mother and her teenage son who traverse the city on a mission to recover their stolen scooter, their only transportation for delivering the baked goods that earn them a living. “To blend in with each neighborhood they vist, Arzé gets creative and puts on a whole disguise,” explains Shaib. “She’s a chameleon, changing her accent, donning a hijab or a Christian cross. She’ll do anything to find the scooter.” The hunt for the scooter leads to revelations that threaten the unity of Arzé’s family.
Arzé is played by Lebanese actor Diamand Abou Abboud, known for her role in The Insult (2017), the first Lebanese film nominated for an Academy Award (in the Best International Feature Film category).
On the production side, Shaib called on a couple of his SCA friends to help him bring the project to fruition. The cinematographer is classmate Heyjin Jun ’17, and their friend Youthana Yous ’17 designed the poster.
Arzé was scheduled to debut in competition at the 45th Cairo Film Festival, which was originally scheduled to kick off on November 15th but has been postponed because of the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza.