Documentaries on Islam
On Islamic History and Beliefs
Title: Islam: Empire of Faith
Synopsis: Originally aired on PBS, this first of three episodes in the documentary “Islam: Empire of Faith” recounts the history of the religion of Islam, from its beginning in 622 A.D. as a small desert sect led by the prophet Muhammad, to its zenith hundreds of years later as an intellectual and artistic empire—the largest the world had known—that spanned three continents and exercised tolerance for other religions. Highlights include re-enactments of battles and commentary by numerous scholars, including Jonathan Bloom of Boston College, Islamic art historian Esin Atil, Michael Sells of Haverford College, John Renard of St. Louis University, and Walter B. Denny of the University of Massachusetts. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Ben Kingsley. (Steve Blackburn, All Movie Guide)
Title: Muhammed: Legacy of a Prophet
Synopsis: “Muhammed: Legacy of a Prophet” is history in the present tense, telling the fascinating story of Muhammad through the lives of contemporary American Muslims. This is the biography of a man who changed the course of history 1,400 years ago, and lives today in the United States through the Americans who consider him to be a God’s prophet. 2 hours.
Title: Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain
Synopsis: “Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain” tells the epic story of one of the world’s great civilizations: the European Islamic civilization of Muslim Spain. Its rise and fall was due in large part to the rise and fall of tolerance among its Christian, Muslim, and Jewish inhabitants. As we stand at a crossroads of history today, it is a story with much to say about the dangers of a clash of civilizations. 2 hours.
Title: Prince Among Slaves: The Amazing True Story of Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Sori, an African Prince Enslaved in the Americas.
Synopsis: “Prince Among Slaves” recounts the true story of an African Muslims prince who was captured and sold into slavery in the American South. After 40 years of enslavement, he finally regained his freedom, became a national celebrity, and dined in the White House. This is an incredible story about an incredible man, who endured the humiliation of slavery without ever losing his dignity or his hope for freedom. 1 hour.
On Islamic Arts
Title: Paradise Found
Synopsis: Islam has inspired some of the world’s greatest art. But this huge artistic achievement has long been undervalued. Now- with the help of some of the most dramatic hi-definition footage of art ever shot- Waldemar Janusczak puts the case for the supremacy of Islamic art. His epic journey of discovery across the Muslim world, from Central Asia to the heart of the Middle East, from Cairo to Samarkand, reveals a treasure-trove of awe-inspiring religious creativity. Works range from the dazzling 20th century Egyptian rock crystal ewer, to the dancing girl frescoes of Isfahan, as far afield as the surreal mud mosques of West African Mali.
On Contemporary Muslims in the West
Title: New Muslim Cool
Synopsis: Puerto Rican American rapper Hamza Pérez ended his life as a drug dealer 12 years ago, and started down a new path as a young Muslim. Now he’s moved to Pittsburgh’s tough North Side to start a new religious community, rebuild his shattered family, and take his message of faith to other young people through his uncompromising music as part of the hip-hop duo M-Team. Raising his two kids as a single dad and longing for companionship, Hamza finds love on a Muslim networking website and seizes the chance for happiness in a second marriage. But when the FBI raids his mosque, Hamza must confront the realities of the post-9/11 world, and challenge himself. He starts reaching for a deeper understanding of his faith, discovering new connections with people from Christian and Jewish communities. “New Muslim Cool” takes viewers on Hamza’s ride through the streets, projects and jail cells of urban America, following his spiritual journey to some surprising places — where we can all see ourselves reflected in a world that never stops changing.
Title: Bilal’s Stand
Synopsis: “Bilal’s Stand,” the first feature film about the lives of an African American Muslim family, focuses on the life of a high school senior Bílal, and his family’s long-owned taxi stand. “The Stand,” as they call it, has been the source of all activity and money for the family for the last sixty years, and it seems like Bílal is about to carry the torch. But after secretly submitting a college application, and taking up ice carving in order to win a scholarship, he is forced to decide whether he’ll continue working at the Stand—the only life he’s ever known—or take a chance at social mobility.
Title: Journey into America
Synopsis: A Muslim professor sets out to discover America with a team of young American researchers. They visit more than 75 cities and more than 100 mosques on an unprecedented project interviewing countless Americans in their homes, schools, and places of worship.
Title: Talking Through Walls: How the Struggle to Build a Mosque United a Community
Synopsis: “Talking Through Walls” takes viewers into the rural town of Voorhees, New Jersey and documents the struggle of Zia Rahman to build a mosque in his community. Against the backdrop of post 9/11 fears that threaten to scuttle the project, a coalition of Jews, Catholics, Buddhists and others join Zia to support his efforts, revealing the best of American ideals at one of the most difficult times in American history. 1 hour.
Title: On a Wing and a Prayer: An American Muslim Learns to Fly
Synopsis: “On a Wing and a Prayer” follows Monem Salam, a U.S. born Muslim with a very inconvenient dream: since childhood he’s wanted to get his pilot’s license. Several years after 9/11, he decides it’s safe to try. The call from FBI is only the beginning of his problems. The film alternates between gentle humor and white-knuckle moments to delve into the life of a devout Muslim American family as they pursue happiness and the American dream. 1 hour.
Title: Allah Made Me Funny
Synopsis: “Allah Made Me Funny,” a landmark concert film, follows acclaimed comedians Mo Amer, Azhar Usman, and Preacher Moss on stage and off as they lift the veil to reveal the humorous truth of what it’s really like to be Muslim in America.
Title: A Son’s Sacrifice
Synopsis: “A Son’s Sacrifice” follows the journey of Imran, a young American Muslim who struggles to take over his father’s halal slaughterhouse in New York City. A first-generation American, Imran must confront his mixed heritage and gain acceptance from his father’s immigrant community at the traditional storefront slaughterhouse. On the holiest day of the year, Imran must lead a sacrifice that will define him as a Muslim, as an American, and as a son. 30 min.
Title: Muslims in Love
Synopsis: In a culture where people choose to date, live with a significant other, and move from relationship to relationship to find the right fit, Muslim Americans often need to clarify that their alternative isn’t the stereotypical arranged marriage. In “Muslims in Love,” Mohammad and Ferdaus tie the knot with the aid of friends, family, laptops and cell phones. Yet, the issues are complex. Michelle, a convert to Islam, frets over the slim pickings of Muslim men. Jameelah, an African American, clashes with racism and double standards. And Zahra, a law student, avoids drama at all costs. She leaves Mr. Right to fate. For better or worse, this generation of Muslim Americans walks a tightrope between faith and modernity in the quest for their heart’s desire.
On Contemporary Muslims in the Muslim World
Title: Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (2009)
Synopsis: “Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think,” a documentary film from Unity Productions Foundation, explores the expertly gathered opinions of Muslims around the globe as revealed in the world’s first major opinion poll, conducted by Gallup, the preeminent polling organization. Approx. 55 minutes.
Title: Heavy Metal Islam (2010)
Synopsis: Despite various government crackdowns (deriding the music as Satanic is a favorite ploy) metal scenes continue to flourish across the Muslim world. As these scenes grow, they’re revealing and an entirely different narrative than the one we get from the 24-hour news channels. It’s a story of similarities between East and West, with young people in Egypt venting their rage and expressing their desires in much the same way that kids in Indiana or London do; of collaborations between Western and Eastern musicians; of music—not suicide bombing—as protest and poetry. This odd, often violent-sounding stepchild of rock and roll is proving to be a remarkably transcendent vessel of hope. As the film progresses, we’ll see musicians struggling with their history, their religion, and their art, and young kids struggling to make sense of an extreme world with stark choices. “Heavy Metal Islam,” the film that we’ll forge from this amalgam, will try to see if the seeds of a different, better future might already be growing from the desert sand.
Title: Veiled Voices
Synopsis: Women across the Middle East are trying to reclaim their role as leaders in Islam. “Veiled Voices” goes in-depth into the world of three Muslim women religious leaders, who say women were always meant to be powerful within the religion. Filmed over the course of two years in Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, “Veiled Voices” reveals a world rarely documented, exploring both the public and private lives of these luminary women. Each triumphs over difficult challenges as they carve out a space to lead – both in Islam and in their communities.