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Friday, November 28, 2008

Islam Through the Western Cinema Lens

The organizers of Cairo Film Festival – held between November 18 - 28, 2008– were not only content with dedicating a section for films tackling the life of Muslims in Western countries under the title of "Islam’s Tolerance in the International Cinema", but also picked one of those films for the opening evening, namely the Spanish film Return to Hansala.

The film critic Yusuf Sherif Rizkallah, the festival's art director, told that among the films chosen for display, he noticed a group of films on the lives of Muslims in the West, depicting through the behavior of their heroes and heroines the tolerance of Islam and decided to group them in a section with that title.

"I thought it was useful to focus on such films, highlight the main viewpoint in each of them, and push them toward a greater percentage of viewing in order to face the intentional defamation of Islam and Muslims by the western cinema and media with a few exceptions," adds Rizkallah.

The opening film tells the story of a Moroccan woman who loses her brother in an attempt of illegal immigration from Morocco to Spain. She was obliged to take his corpse back to their homeland.

The film is directed by Chus Gutierrez who directed many short and documentary films including A Home for Rent, Alma Gitana, Anxiety, Warmth, and lastly Return to Hansala in 2008.

American Mozlym

The American film Mozlym is about an African-American young man who tries to improve his situation and get out of the neighborhood where he lives. He joins college and pursues a master’s degree in film direction, but is haunted by his past memories of gangster life, and fears that his brother will follow the same route.

Influenced by the image propagated about them in the media and by his younger brother’s adventures with Afghan gangs, he decides to make his graduation project about Muslims and violence.

The film director, Edreace Purmul, was born in the U.S of an Afghan origin. His parents had left for the U.S as refugees during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late seventies. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in business administration and film direction from San Diego University in 2006. He currently lives in California.

The English film Shoot on Sight delves into the heart of English society and centers around Tareq Ali, the Muslim police officer of the intelligence department of Scotland Yard, who is asked to arrest the terrorists who carried out the July 7 bombings.

Things become convoluted, however, when Tariq is shot by the English police. In spite of being a British Citizen and his long service in British intelligence, he is under his boss's suspicion.

The film is directed by Jag Mundhra, born in India in 1948. Jag carried out a comparative study between the marketing methods of American and Indian cinema. His works include The Final Call, Sand Storm, Private Moments and Natasha (2006).


The incidents of the Algerian-French film Adhan, take place in an ancient industrial park where a Muslim called 'Mao' owns a specialized company for fixing cars and hoisting gears. Mao decides to build a mosque and hires an imam without getting permission from the labor department.

The film is for a French director of Algerian origin Rabah Ameur Zaimeche who was born in Algeria in 1966 and moved to France in 1968. In 1999 he established Sarrazink Productions and directed his first film Wesh Wesh in 2002.

Wesh Wesh, or What’s Going on?, won the Wolfgang Staudte at the Berlin International Film Festival for 2002 and the Louis Delluc prize in France for 2005.

Zaimeche also wrote, produced and directed Bled Number One that won the youth prize in 2006 at the Cannes International Film Festival. Adhan is his latest work.

A Film on Prophet Muhammad

A number of Arab American cinema producers are preparing a one million Euro budget film entitled The Messenger of Peace about the biography of Muhammad – peace be upon him – as a launching point for the story of persons who lived around the Prophet, and were affected by his message, and witnessed the dawn of Islam.

Oscar Zoghby, the main producer of the film, said that it was about time to show the true values of Islam. He added that the film would tackle the life of common persons and families who live in the same place at the time of the rise of Islam.

The film, he says, is not addressed to Muslims only but is an international film addressed to the whole world; a "Hollywood film with Islamic values" in his own words.

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