Film and TV

Miguel Ali Hasan on politics, sex addiction, his new movie and his name changes

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Let's talk about your movie career. Where does Confessions of a Womanizer fit in?

The first film I made that was really good was my thesis film at Chapman University. I made it in 2007. It travelled the film festival circuit in 2008. It was called Rabia. It was a narrative biopic about the first Palestinian, female suicide bomber. Her name was Wafa Idris. It was a 24-minute biopic about her life and what motivated her to do the bombing. That film did really well. It went to 85 film festivals. It won around 35 awards.

That movie was traveling the festival circuit while I was running for office in District 56. It was a fun year. I'd spend a week knocking on 200 to 300 doors a day in either Vail or Breckenridge, and then, every now and then on the weekend, I would drive to Denver and fly out to Florida, California or New York and attend a festival screening.

I thought my first feature film was going to be a biopic about the Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. That was the next feature script I wrote, and I honestly thought that was going to be my first feature film. I was working with a really good producer on that. At the same time I was writing that, I hit a personal rock bottom in my life, and I went to rehab for sex addiction. I have a very addictive personality. There were a number of toxic ways it could have manifested, but it manifested itself in sex.

During rehab, I was writing. Writing for me is therapeutic, and I wanted to write something to get everything I was feeling off my chest. Rehab's a really hard thing. I hit every major withdrawal symptom. I had no energy. I couldn't breathe, and a lot of people were dropping out of my life. The people who knew my former self, the people who didn't like that I was getting healthy, they were leaving my life, and they were being very insulting when they did. They were kicking dirt in my eyes. There came a point where I thought, is this really worth it? I thought, I had more friends and more energy when I was an addict.

I've read a lot of testimonials of people who went through rehab -- whether it was for drugs or for gambling, and every testimonial said: "No, you can get through it. You're going to become a better person when you do." When I read those testimonials, I was really touched because those played a big part in getting me through the completion of rehab.

The program was not a 12-step program. It was a program based on isolating the fact that you have an addictive personality and trying to channel those addictions into healthy things. I'm proud now that I'm addicted to fitness; I'm addicted to loose-leaf tea; I'm addicted to yoga. I literally start to shake if I don't do one of those things everyday.

In tribute to everyone else who gave a testimonial on their rehab experience, I wanted to write a testimonial. I wanted to write something to tell everyone that it's okay if you have a problem. You can go get help.

The worst thing we do when we are afflicted with addiction is that we get reclusive. We don't want anyone else to be near us because we want to completely invest in our addiction. The best way to get over an addiction is to connect with other people; it's to be around your friends and the people who love you most. I wanted to make a movie that said: You shouldn't get reclusive, you should reach out to people, and connecting with others is what's going to bring the best out of you.

At the same time, unlike the Benazir Bhutto story I'd been developing and unlike Rabia, I decided I'd like to make a movie that actually has a happy ending where no one dies, and the audience is going to watch it for ninety minutes, and they're going to laugh their ass off. I said, at the very least, I want them to enjoy this comedy and have a great time. That's basically how I went from Rabia to Bhutto down to Confessions of a Womanizer. Although it's a great comedy, I hope people look at it as a film that has a lot of depth and really tells a story of sex addiction too. Talk about why you are using comedy to address sex addiction?

When I decided to write about sex addiction, I thought about writing with a dramatic tone. I thought: This is an affliction. It deserves to be taken seriously, the way a drama would. Then I thought to myself, you know, I'm not telling the intellectual elite about sex addiction. I'm trying to tell people that are struggling with sex addiction or any addiction. I'm trying to tell them that it's okay to get help. Don't get reclusive. You need to connect with others.

Dealing with addiction, I know that it's a lot easier to get my attention by approaching me with a comedy than it is with a drama. I think the people that I'm trying to touch are going to be more open to listening to a comedy and understanding this message by laughing rather than by crying. That's why I try to do it through comedy.

I admit, you're taking a big risk when you do that, because it is a serious subject. If someone's insulted by it, that's fair. They're welcome to be insulted. As far as I'm concerned, I don't think artwork is good unless someone is offended by it. If people are offended, I welcome that. I'm very proud about how it came across.

Read on for more from Miguel Ali.

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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris