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As enlightening as it is arousing
on December 1, 2012
Recalling the subtly political psychedelia of Kenneth Anger, Profane is a beautiful dream of one woman's nightmare. On the surface, this nightmare appears to be the overtaking of her very soul by a Djinn: a malevolent demon of Islamic lore. But, venturing deeper, the film explores her fears and frustrations with an environment that refuses to understand her - a classic nightmare scenario - and her choices of both religious and sexual expression. White Americans ensnared in post-911 paranoia target her for reasons of practicing what they view as a dangerous faith and, even less credibly, allying with an enemy power, while fellow Muslims are appalled by her decision to keep sacred the pleasures of debauchery in addition to the name of Muhammad. These complex issues of identity and community are meticulously dissected without ever upsetting the film's delicate visual balance of dizzying dreaminess and visceral horror. The most prominent strength of Profane, though, is its intelligent and sometimes sensitive handling of potentially pornographic material, which elevates its eroticism to a company the likes of Bataille, Reage, and Miller. Alshaibi shows here that no matter how many dildos and demons one may encounter throughout the course of a given work, with enough cognizance amid the carnality, it is still possible for true art to emerge.