Inanna Sarkis Wants to Bridge the Gap Between American and Middle Eastern Film

Inanna Sarkis Wants to Bridge the Gap Between American and Middle Eastern Film

The 24-year-old actress and filmmaker experienced a creative renaissance during a recent trip to Dubai.

The 24-year-old actress and filmmaker experienced a creative renaissance during a recent trip to Dubai.

Text: Megan Armstrong

"We all have that one friend that's perfect no matter what," says Inanna Sarkis in her YouTube short titled "Am I Perfect?" From a removed perspective, Sarkis seems like she would be that perfect friend.

Throughout, Sarkis goes to extremes to become what everybody has decided is physically perfect. To drive the point home, while asleep with her iPhone in hand, a surge of power gives her superpowers to manipulate her body any way she wants, only for her to realize she should have accepted herself originally. She lays out insecurities we all grapple with, ending the video saying, "Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that it's OK not to be perfect. How do you measure perfection anyway? Is it based on our weight or our height, the size of our lips or how small our weight can be? I think perfection is a myth. ... We're all perfect in our own way."

And like that, she sincerely disarms her over 2.1 million YouTube subscribers and seven million-plus followers across Instagram and Twitter. "Am I Perfect?" alone has over nine million views. And she intends to use that huge platform to do good in the world. Sarkis uses Shots Studios to "push messages about challenging corruption, promoting positive body images, and empowering women." As shown in her Vigilante Unit series, where she acts as an unassuming vigilante tackling injustices from the inside, she's constantly coming up with fresh ways to deliver.

After a trip to Dubai in December for the first time, her eyes are open to something new. Her sights are now set on bridging the gap between American and Middle Eastern film. She took time to detail what she's taken away from attending the 14th annual Dubai International Film Festival —for which she wants to submit a short next year — and everything she absorbed while in Dubai, just for V.

What did you learn about filmmaking, and artistry in general, during your trip to Dubai?

I think my biggest takeaway is that there isn’t that much of a difference than what we have here in the United States. Middle Eastern filmmakers, like American ones, are passionate people trying to tell a story through film. Everyone builds their stories around different experiences and the cultures we were raised in. I attended the Dubai Film Festival, an event that was full of incredibly talented people. A film called Talq Senaey (Induced Labor), directed by Khaled Diab, stuck with me because of how great the story was told. It gave me shivers because it captured the essence of the characters’ humanity and the struggle they faced. At the end of the day, creativity is creativity, regardless of language and culture.

@inanna Searching for my soulmate 🐪 #mydubai

Based on your experience, what do you think is the largest disconnect between American film and the rest of the world?

There needs to be more representation and diversity of cultures and perspectives. We see a lot of the same stories being told over and over again. For example, the American girl who moved from another state that is struggling to fit in. That story is fine and worth telling, but imagine if that was a Middle Eastern or Latina or an African American girl moving from another country to the United States. There are so many layers to that story. In addition to growing up, there’s the conflict with identity, discrimination, and the general struggles of adapting to a new world. I’d love to see a wider range of stories being told in American film.

What is a memory from Dubai that you'll carry with you and draw from?

It felt like home, but in a way that I’d never experienced before. Middle Eastern culture was vital to my upbringing. My dad kept the culture alive in our home with food, language, and traditions. When I arrived in Dubai, I instantly felt comfortable. I felt safe. There was such a unique positive energy and genuine hospitality that made me feel like I belonged. I was more open than ever and I learned more about myself each day I spent there. I definitely can’t wait to go back this year.

What are you most proud of in your work?

I’m most proud that my work reflects who I am. There is always outside pressure and external voices trying to tell me what to do. I feel like I’ve remained true to myself and to my vision. I want to showcase myself as an actress and creator that blends traditional and new media. It has always been my goal to give my YouTube channel a cinematic feel, creating short movies and telling stories that represent things that are important to me, especially those that empower women. If my art can make a difference in someone’s life, that means everything.

What hints can you give us about the short you want to make blending Arab and American cinema?

I’m still putting together the story, but the general outline follows a Middle Eastern girl who moves to America to escape war. She leaves behind her family, deals with loss, and grows up in a foreign and scary place. I don’t think there are enough stories told from Middle Eastern perspectives, especially from a woman’s point of view. So it’s something I really want to make happen. I’d love to submit it to the Dubai Film Festival and be a big part of bridging the gap between Middle Eastern and American film and media

Credits: Photo credit: Shots Studios and Calvin Williams

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