• Kiva Reardon

Hisham Fageeh is watching "The Wrestler" - IG Live May 4 @ 7.00pmEST/4.00pmPST

Updated: May 4, 2020

What are you watching?

The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky, 2008

Why did you decide to watch or re-watch this movie now?

I wanted to see if it would wow me 12 years later. Also, I stumbled upon a wrestling documentary on Netflix during my quarantine, fell in love, then found out it inspired Aronofsky to write The Wrestler. It's called Beyond the Mat.

Describe watching the movie for the first time. How did this time compare to watching it for the first time?

My first marriage had just ended, and I fell into this crew at another school. They were the complete opposite of who I was, or who I thought I was. They were all art students, and I had always identified as an athlete. They were into weird shit. They were extremely playful. Sometimes overly ironic to cover the guilt of being so immature. I always rolled with the punches, because I knew I would at least get to laugh my ass off.

We would consume food and culture, that was our thing. The consumed product was either absolute shit or mind-blowing, nothing in between. This particular night started with a blooming onion from Outback Steakhouse, so I figured it was an ironic kind of night. Seeing the word "wrestler" on the movie ticket only reinforced this notion. It was as good as the blooming onion was bad. I had never seen anything so raw. I loved the darkness. It made me feel. Rewatching it I still felt the rawness and the darkness. I still got feels. But it was with a technical eye now, studying everything. My mind was moving at a thousand miles a minute, but my body (heart?) felt a familiarity.

Personal note: 2009 was the year my mother left us, so the white trash of it all resonated super hard this time around.

Were there specific moments in the movie that made you think: "Dang, I wish somebody was watching this with me?" What were those moments and why? If not, why was it suited to watching solo?

I wish I could watch it with my old crew. I recently saw them, so that was nice. But since my life is so nuts all the time, I rarely get to reminisce with anyone.

I always go into wormholes of "research", when I get intrigued by any particular thing. I recently nerded out about wrestling with [Kiva's note: writer and pal!] Sarah Hagi when she was in Los Angeles, and she was confused. I don't follow wrestling, but I understand (and dare I say appreciate) it as a cultural phenomenon. So every time I saw a wrestling easter egg, or a nod to a specific real life story, I wanted to yell and point. And show off how sophisticated I am. Or at least share out loud how I much I appreciated the work that Darren and his heads of department put into this work.

Tell us about you!

Hisham Fageeh is an Arab American actor, writer and producer. His work has been written about by The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, BBC, Variety, among others.

Fageeh steadfastly straddles both American and Middle Eastern audiences. His professional trajectory began in 2011 when he started performing stand-up while working on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A few months later he went on to receive a Master’s at Columbia University, while also studying improvisational comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (UCBT). This curiosity, with a specific interest in merging the ephemeral with the comedic landscape of early YouTube, led him to make a web series (اسبوعيات هشام - Translated: Hisham’s Weeklies) which propelled him into an Arabic stand-up scene in Saudi Arabia.

In the Middle East, he’s most known for his video “No Woman, No Drive,” which went viral in 2013. The video remains a hilarious satire on the debates over whether or not Saudi Arabia would let women drive (they eventually did in 2018), and Fageeh’s video was a momentous critical injection. This is part of his pointed charm, Fageeh uses comedy to highlight social issues, by turning them on their head. Using comedic tools, Fageeh questions cultural norms, even the most ubiquitous ones.

For acting, he rose to international acclaim when he co-produced and starred in Saudi Arabia’s submission to the Oscars Best Foreign Film of 2016, Barakah Meets Barakah. For his role, he was nominated for a Best Actor Award at the Arab Cinema Awards in Cannes, and the film premiered at the Forum section of the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, winning the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Berlinale. In North America, the film premiered at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres and at the 41st annual Toronto International Film Festival. It made history in 2017, when Netflix bought the distribution rights to the film, making it the first Saudi film to display on the streaming service.

Fageeh’s ability to invoke humour, as well as critical tenderness, gives him a laser focus that makes him a great social thinker. This specific lens is part of the reason why he continues to be a top consultant for ministers and regional entities, and why he previously held the position of Head of Content at Telfaz11, a multi-channel network with 12 million subscribers and more than one billion views. His views are expansive, while also instructional. Last year, he was an instructor at USC's MEMi program last summer. He’s lectured on the state of comedy in the Middle East, making him an important voice in this arena.

Currently, he’s writing a subversive sitcom named Brown Republican, about a—you guessed it—brown republican, a Bobby Jindal type. He’s also working on his second feature, Fay’s Palette, which is currently in post-production. He is acting, as well as producing the feature.

Follow him on Social Media: @HishamFageeh

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