‘The Public Square’ Anti-Islamic speech by pastor Terry Jones … by singing the Beatles.

Since Op-Docs, our forum for short, opinionated documentaries, produced with creative latitude across many subjects, started in November 2011, 46 short films and videos have been published on nytimes.com. Today we begin a new Op-Docs feature: Scenes. It will be a platform for very short work — snippets of street life, brief observations and interviews, clips from experimental and artistic nonfiction videos — that follow less traditional documentary narrative conventions. This first Scenes video presents a classic New York moment, recorded last year. — The Editors

We spent much of last year making a documentary, “The Education of Mohammad Hussein,” inside a conservative Islamic school near Detroit. Overall we encountered a fearful community, mistrusting of outsiders. Muslims of all ages expressed a deep sense of being unwanted and spied-on by those who were quick to suspect them of wrongdoing.

During production, Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who publicly set fire to the Koran in a mock trial (and who recently received a death threat in Egypt for his links to the infamous video “Innocence of Muslims”) came to town to hold an anti-Muslim rally. The event provoked a small riot, arrests and heightened tension in the area.

We followed Mr. Jones to New York for the events surrounding the 10th anniversary of 9/11. One day at the World Trade Center site, men and women in the crowd held signs that shouted “Stand back: I’m on jihad watch” and “We will not submit to sharia law in the USA.” Whenever the term “Muslim-American” was mentioned, boos erupted from the crowd. The hate was overwhelming.

On Sept. 10, we followed Mr. Jones to Times Square. All kinds of bystanders listened, silently at first, while he ranted against the Muslim faith.

Then, incredibly, the crowd responded not with taunts, jeers or indifference… but with the Beatles. The sunnier side of the term “mob mentality” spontaneously emerged, and we were once again overwhelmed by that well-worn cliché that sometimes fits just right: “Only in New York.”

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady are New York-based documentary filmmakers. Their forthcoming film “The Education of Mohammad Hussein,” which is on the short list for the Academy Award for short-subject documentary, is to be broadcast on HBO in 2013. Their previous Op-Doc was “Dismantling Detroit.”

 

Documentary on Religious Wars

15./ 16.08.2011

Last week, the German television station “ZDF” aired the first of its five-part documentary on the history of religious wars with a special focus on Islam, entitled “Der Heilige Krieg” (Holy War). Motivated by the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, award-winning German journalist Guido Knopp, one of the key heads of the ZDF’s Contemporary History Department and well-known for his documentaries on the Third Reich, has explored the history of religious wars, going as far back as the 7th century. Each of the five parts of the documentary centres on distinct historical periods, starting with the 7th and 8th century in the first part, entitled “the prophet’s sword”. This is followed by episodes on the “Crusades to Jerusalem”, “Turks in Vienna”, “the Emperor’s Jihad”, and, the most topical, “terror in the name of faith”. Knopp’s final conclusion is that there is no such thing as a “holy war”. After it had been aired last Tuesday, the first episode received both positive as well as critical acclaim.

Two new British film comedies dare to poke fun at religion

Two British films are coming out in April and May, both of which dare to approach religion with a comic touch. They will, of course, be castigated by the uncompromisingly religious, the usual suspects who believe that faith can never be a laughing matter and revel in demonstrating their beliefs through the medium of a violent punch up.

The first film, David Baddiel’s new offering, The Infidel, tells the story of a middle-aged Muslim family man who discovers he was actually born a Jew. To try and make sense of this sudden identity crisis, Mahmud, played by Iranian-born comic Omid Djalili, seeks out his neighbor, a drunken Jewish cabdriver called Lenny. The hilarity that ensues is largely based around the Muslim and Jewish communities’ deep misunderstanding of each other and how two flawed but instantly lovable characters learn to respect each other and their faiths.

The second film follows an even more controversial line. Four Lions is Christ Morris’s much anticipated movie debut and revolves around five wannabe jihadists from Sheffield who plan a series of coordinated suicide bombs in London. Their stupidity and haplessness is matched by the police, who are as incompetent and ill-informed as the people they are trying to catch.

Navid Akhtar, a film-maker who has specialized in serious documentaries on the nature of British Islam, including the film Young, Angry and Muslim, agrees. “I think after July 7 and the Danish cartoons there were plenty of British Muslims who felt equally concerned as anyone else about the global reaction and the ridiculousness of it all,” he says. “What we’re getting as a result is a more sophisticated and developed Western Islam that gets comedy and understands that it’s OK to poke a little fun at yourself.”

Film about Gay Muslims Wins GLAAD Award

The film “A Jihad for Love” by American Muslim director Parvez Sharma following gay Muslim men and women in twelve countries, gas won numerous awards, and most recently received the ‘Best Documentary’ award in the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation) awards in March. Sharma traveled through Iran, Egypt, Turkey, India, South Africa, and others – to examine the experiences of being gay and lesbian in an “intensely Muslim community.” He consciously decided against pursuing his project in America or a Western country in which homosexuality has a markedly different experience of acceptability, but cautioned against wanting to save gays and lesbians in predominantly Muslim countries. Sharma found that many are happy where they are, and do not desire asylum, displacement, or change to a different paradigm. “We tend to assume the Western model of this GLBTQ identity. Unless there’s a pride parade you’re not really free. These ideas are way more complicated than that. Sexuality is so complex in Eastern and Islamic cultures,” he says.”

Naples hosts Moroccan film festival

The city of Naples is hosting a film festival featuring short films, documentaries, cartoons, and women’s films from Morocco. The festival is also organizing debates, book readings, talks, musical events, food sampling, and other exhibitions related to Morocco and Moroccan culture. Four main sections divide the festival – women’s cinema, documentaries, fiction, and Berber cinema. The documentary section is being dedicated to Izza Genini, Morocco’s first female documentary-maker.

Full-text article continues here.(Some news sites may require registration)

Iran to counter ‘Fitna’ with two documentaries

Iran plans to counter the inflammatory _Fitna’ video made by Dutch legislator Geert Wilders with two documentary films. The films, titled _Reply to Fitna’ and _Beyond Fitna’ aim at what the filmmakers call neutralizing the plot by the Dutch against Islam. The two Iranian filmmakers have also announced their readiness to debate Wilders over his film. Tehran has condemned Wilders’ film, calling it insulting and anti-Islamic and as symbolic for the deep antagonism of some Western countries towards Muslims and Islam.

DW-TV Expands Arabic Programming

Deutsche Welle has announced that it intends to extend its Arabic television programming from three hours a day to eight hours effective April 2, 2007. To provide this extended service, DW has increased its Arabian editorial staff in Berlin from 10 journalists to 30. “In some countries,” DW Director Erik Bettermann said, “our programming allows people to get to know German and European perspectives on issues, while in other states it performs the role of supporting freedom of the press and freedom of speech and promoting human rights.” The Arabic program, broadcast over the Nilesat and Hotbird 6 satellites, will be available in more than 20 countries from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, reaching an audience of around 10 million viewers. The expanded programming will also include Arabic subtitled feature shows and documentaries.