Film, Video and Audio Material

Introduction

Both educational documentaries and fictional feature films can be useful for learning about Islam in its many forms. They are organized here under the following headings:

Pre-Islamic Times
The Qur’ān
Muḥammad
History
Ritual
Shi‘ism
Sufism
Art and Architecture
Modern Debates and Controversies
Islamophobia


Pre-Islamic Times

A film such as PBS’s “Islam: Empire of Faith” can provide a good orientation to the Arabian context of the rise of Islam as it is relevant to the life of Muḥammad (this covers about the first 50 minutes of the film). Somewhat romanticized, the film’s emphasis on idol worship and constant battles conveys an important part of the way that pre-history plays its role in Muslim identity by providing the contrast to the state of affairs under Islam. The accompanying website is also valuable: http://www.pbs.org/empires/islam/. The film is available on http://video.google.com.

On the place of South Arabia, the film “Yemen: Land of the Queen of Sheba” is valuable. Alaine Jomier (Director) and Elisabeth Kiledjian (Producer). 1997 (in French, Yémen, pays de la reine de Saba), 54 minutes. Production by Institut du monde arabe, Paris. The film presents archaeological evidence from Saba, Qataban, Ma'in, and Hadhramawt, and combines contemporary views and culture with evidence of former kingdoms. Sequential presentation highlights the main sites and uses animations to reconstruct those that are incomplete. Distributor: Films for the Humanities and Sciences (http://www.films.com).


The Qur’ān

Films are available although some try to tackle the subject as one of “controversy” while others are apologetics. Among the titles that can be found through YouTube and other resources are: “Decoding the Past – Secrets of the Koran” and “The Qur’an – Channel 4” (as well as refutations and clarifications of points in them).

On manuscripts of the Qurʾān and various controversies surrounding establishing the meaning of the text, YouTube videos “The Oldest Quranic Manuscripts” (4:45 minutes) and “The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Qur’an” (10:01 minutes) are helpful, if somewhat polemical extracts from other films (both of these versions are posted by “AtheistMediaDotCom”).


Muḥammad

“Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet,”(Director Omar al-Qattan, 2002) is available on YouTube and more details about the film are available at http://www.kikim.com/xml/projects.php?projectId=4 and http://www.pbs.org/muhammad/. The film includes pieces from Karen Armstrong and John Voll, and while the history is simplistic it does have some focus on Islam in United States, which adds another dimension to the meaning of Muḥammad to Muslims through the interspersed personal narratives.

“The Message”, 1976, in English, starring Anthony Quinn, can also be found by searching on the Internet.


History

BBC Radio 4: “In Our Times: The Abbasid Caliphate,” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p003hyfd, is an excellent presentation of Islamic history form the eighth through the tenth century in a stimulating discussion between Melvyn Bragg and three academics.


Ritual

“Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet,”(Director Omar al-Qattan, 2002) contains a brief “Special Feature” on the “Virtual Hajj” which is also posted at the PBS website: http://www.pbs.org/muhammad/virtualhajj.shtml

National Geographic’s “Inside Mecca” on the pilgrimage is an excellent overview: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/10/1020_031020_meccahajj.html

Also of value because it fits in a broader narrative context is “Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta” (Director Bruce Neibaur, 2009).
http://www.journeytomeccagiantscreen.com/index.php

The feature film “Le grande voyage” (Director Ismaël Ferroukhi, 2004, in French, Bulgarian, Arabic, Italian and Turkish with English subtitles), is a powerful portrayal of one man’s journey to fulfillment by accomplishing the ḥajj.


Shi‘ism

“Soheil Star” is the story of the early convert to Islam from the Yemen, Owais-e-Qarni, told from a Shīʿī perspective:
http://www.shiatv.net/view_video.php?viewkey=8b3933521ba359d33ed5
and
http://www.shiatv.net/view_video.php?viewkey=12fd5c9ff9077408dcf1&page=&viewtype=&category= (in Persian with English sub-titles). This film is also available at http://www.cultureunplugged.com/, which is a significant resource of documentary and independent feature films, many of which have relevant content to the study of Islam.


Sufism

A list of films on Ṣūfīs and Sufism is available at http://www.unc.edu/depts/sufilit/sufifilms.htm. While the list is composed of the films available at the University of North Carolina, some searching on the Internet will uncover a number of them.

The feature film “Takva: Man’s Fear of God” (2006) in Turkish with English subtitles, is the story of a man who joins a contemporary Ṣūfī order and is forced to confront the sin, hypocrisy and blasphemy of the modern world. The film contains some excellent scenes of whirling dervishes.


Art and Architecture

“Paradise Found: A Documentary on Islamic Architecture” is available on YouTube and many other sites; it is a highly praised survey.


Modern Debates and Controversies

The BBC’s documentary from 2004, “The Power of Nightmares”, is a three-part series that traces links between figures such as Sayyid Quṭb, al-Ẓawāhirā, ʿAzzām, and Bin Laden, and examines this in the context of American neo-conservatism and Christian neo-fundamentalism, leading to a conclusion that suggests a clash of fundamentalisms rather than a clash of civilizations. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/3755686.stm. The films are available on YouTube.

“Sharia in Canada: la charia au Canada” (Director Dominque Cardona), produced by the National Film Board of Canada, is available in two parts: “Something to fear?” and “The Pitfalls of Diversity” – http://www.onf-nfb.gc.ca/eng/collection/film/?id=55349
http://www.nfb.ca/film/sharia_in_canada_part_1 and http://www.nfb.ca/film/sharia_in_canada_part_2/. On this film see William Anselmi and Sheena Wilson, “From Inch’Allah Dimanche to Sharia in Canada: Empire Management, Gender Representations, and Communication Strategies in the Twenty-First Century,” in Cara Cilano (ed.), From Solidarity to Schisms: 9/11 and After in Fiction and Film from Outside the US, Amsterdan: Rodopi, 2009, pp. 237–74.

The theme of suicide bombers draws has stimulated several independent films found at http://www.cultureunplugged.com/ including “Lesh Sabreen?” (2009), a 20-minute shortfrom Palestine; “It A One Long Life,” (2009),  a 14-minute short from Pakistan; and “A Step into Darkness,” (2009), a 2-hour feature film from Turkey.

The feature film “Ali Zaoua, Prince of the Streets” (Director Nabil Ayouch, 2006, in Arabic with English subtitles) takes place in Casablanca with a group of young street children whose names have resonances with the formative period of Islam and whose development of family bonds and rivalries both reflects the modern world and echoes Islamic history.


Islamophobia

“My Name is Khan” is a feature film which conveys some sense of the Muslim feeling of oppression: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Name_Is_Khan is exceptionally rich; see also http://www.mynameiskhanthefilm.com/

The BBC’s “Islam in America”, http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00v1nhl is on the Park 51 controversy with Daniel Pipes, an outspoken foe of current politicized Islamic movements, as well as Pamela Geller, a rabid anti-Muslim blogger, along with Robert Salaam, a former US Marine who converted to Islam and is now the editor of The American Muslim, and Dr. Hussein Rashid, Lecturer at Hofstra University in New York and associate editor of the website Religion Dispatches.

The political situation of Muslims in America becomes plain by watching a short news feature such as http://thinkprogress.org/2010/11/24/pam-geller-park51/ with Pamela Geller.