Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Atlanta Screening

Yesterdays screening, hosted by the Muslim Students Association at Emory University, was very touching. The audience expressed wonderful words of appreciation and I found their questions thought-provoking and intellectually-curious.

I spent two hours after the film screening answering questions during the Q+A and chatting to the audience members plus signing DVDs. Then many of us went for dinner and continued the discuss there.

I think what I most felt touched by and grateful for is that this film is still traveling around. Its been well over a year since its release. When I was making the film, I never would have imagined the film to still be screening this long since its original premiere. I am always pleasantly surprised when I get another request for a screening and though the DVD has been circulating widely, especially within the Ismaili community, they still come in full force to support the endeavour.

It has been such a privilege to meet so many people and hear if and how the film has touched them, or provided them new insights. When I was in the DR Congo last fall for a premiere, one Ismaili said to me, "You have given me an identity (with the film), thank you." I corrected him saying he always had an identity but maybe, the film helped him articulate it further. His point and where he was coming from was not lost besides the emotions and feelings he was trying to convey to me through his powerful words.

Yesterday, undergrads told me how when they first got the DVD they analyzed each aspect of the documentary, discussing and debating it for hours into the early morning (as Heena mentions in the previous post). What a compliment.

It has been a privilege to make the film, absolutely. And when I was making the film I would watch and observe, for example, the Sunni cameramen/sound men or the Christian local producer or even the Muslim driver, who never had a chance to go to school, and how they would be so engrossed in the interviews I was conducting. They were being exposed to a community, the Ismailis, which they never had heard about or knew very little about. In the locations I was taking them to to disect a story they would take great interest in what was going on. Why would the driver be right there at all the interviews and then ask me followup questions once we stopped filming?

Who is the Aga Khan? What is the Shia theology? What is the AKDN? Why are they building a multi-million dollar park in Cairo if there are no Ismailis there? And the questions would just keep coming. A dialogue on a very small scale had begun. My objective was clearly only about pursuing the making of this film at that time. The positive exposure the local team were getting was unexpected and I took comfort in these inadvertent side benefits that even if this film doesn't ever get broad exposure, the process has been positive to those around me (I hoped). Change had been created, albeit, very small. Is this something you tell yourself to keep up motivation and enthusiasm when documentary making gets tough? Maybe. But I solidified my thinking on the belief that it wasn't just about "B": it was about getting from "A" to "B".

If "B" is making the film and screening it a number of times, then we have come close to achieving this but it has been everything to try and get to "B", and the participation of so many to help get to "B", which I feel most moved by. This journey includes the thousands of people I have met and the conversations I have had with them - Muslims and non-Muslims alike. To hear their questions about the film, their concerns on the divides, their hopes for peace - and all through their specific lens tinted by culture, religion, geography.

A real pleasure and privilege this journey has been for me and for all the gratitude I have been shown by audiences, it is I who, too, am grateful to you and them.

Yesterday someone commented, "You must have seen this film hundreds of times by now." Yes, its kind of like a high-class problem. That is, if it is a problem for one, it is a good problem to have! (I personally dont have issue with watching the film - biased / obsessed I clearly am!)

And time and time again, story after story, response after response, I can't help but reflect on what Prophet Isa / Jesus said: From everyone who has been given much, much will be required. (Luke 12:48).

1 comment:

Abdu ar-Rahman said...

In the name of Allah, the Most-Beneficient, the Most Merciful

I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah (subhanuhu wa ta'aala - Exalted and Glorified is He), and I bear witness that Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) is his last and final messenger.

The translation of the word 'muslim' is as follows: one who submits his/her will to Allah (swt). Bearing this in mind, if one calls him/herself a Muslim, one has to abide by the laws and commands of Allah (swt). So what are these commands of Allah (swt). In short, they are to worship none but Allah (swt), to pray 5 times a day (as narrated by the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), and the companions of the Prophet, and as commanded by Allah (swt) on the night of meraj/isra), to fast the month of Ramadhan, to pay the zakat (2.5% of one's total wealth), and to make Hajj if one is financially capable of it.

"Oh you who believe, fasting is prescribed unto you as it was prescribed for those who came before you, so that you may attain piety and God-consciousness" 2:183

"The month of Ramadhan is that in which the Qur'an was revealed, a guidance to men and clear clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks" 2:185

"…and seek what Allah has ordained for you, and eat and drink until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the blackness of the night at dawn, then complete the fast till night.." 2:187

"And proclaim among men the Pilgrimage: they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path, that they may witness advantages for them and mention the name of Allah during stated days over what He has given them of the cattle quadrupeds, then eat of them and feed the distressed one, the needy. Thenlet them accomplish their needful acts of shaving and cleansing, and let them fulfil their vows and let them go round the Ancient House. That(shall be so); and whoever respects the sacred ordinances of Allah, it is better for him with his Lord; and the cattle are made lawful for you, except that which is recited to you, therefore avoid the uncleanness of the idols and avoid false words" 22:27-30

"And continue to remind, for surely the reminder profits the believers. And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me. I do not desire from them any sustenance and I do not desire that they should feed Me. Surely Allah is the Bestower of sustenance, the Lord of Power, the Strong." 51:55-58

"He it is Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, that He might cause it to prevail over all religions, though the polytheists may be averse." 9:33

"Keep up prayer from the declining of the sun till the darkness of the night and the morning recitation; surely the morning recitation is witnessed. And during a part of the night, pray Tahajjud beyond what is incumbent on you; maybe your Lord will raise you to a position of great glory" 17:78-79

"And worship Allah [alone], and do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him. And do good unto your parents, and near of kin, and unto orphans, and the needy, and the neighbour from among your own people, and the neighbour who is a stranger, and the friend by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom you rightfully possess. Verily, Allah does not love any of those who, full of self-conceit, act in a boastful manner" 4:36

I urge the reader of this to follow that which Allah (swt) has ordained and stay away from that which Allah(swt) has forbidden. Worship Allah (swt) alone, DO NOT ascribe partners to Him, if you do I fear the punishment of Allah (swt) for you. Know that your Lord is One, He is not human, nor does He have human attributes. Aga Khan is not Allah (swt) nor is he receiving guidance from Allah (swt). If he was, he would urge you to obey Allah (swt). The Qur'an is the best guidance, this is the guidance of Allah (swt), you do not need someone to interpret it for you. Read it and become of the successful.

I extend my hand and invite you to Islam, to the way of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), I invite you to the worship of Allah (swt) alone. If you accept you will be successful, you will enter Paradise inshAllah. Save yourselves from a Fire (Hellfire), whose feul is men and stones. Accept Islam before a day comes when you will only have 2 options, Hell or Paradise (the Day of Judgement).

I pray that the readers will accept this invitation and learn more about the true Islam - the religion of Allah (swt) and the Islam of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and his companions.

Abdu ar-Rahman

Feel free to contact me at abu.abdu.arrahman@gmail.com