Lena Khan went to UCLA in 2002 thinking she wanted to teach political science or history. Then she saw the impact of the movie "Hotel Rwanda," and how Muslims were depicted in movies such as "The Siege" and "Black Hawk Down."
"I just cringed every time I saw another Muslim terrorist character on the movie screen," said Khan, a 23-year-old Muslim who lives in Rancho Cucamonga.
She started taking film classes and graduated in 2006 with degrees in history, political science and filmmaking.
The filmmaking degree and desire to change the way Muslims are seen on the screen led Khan to submit three short films to a nationwide online film contest aimed at promoting understanding of Muslims through stories, not stereotypes. All three were selected as finalists.
The contest is sponsored by One Nation, a philanthropic collaborative aimed at challenging misconceptions about Muslims, and Link TV, a satellite television network devoted to global issues that is available to 30 million people in the United States.
More than 150 films, all shorter than five minutes, were submitted in six categories, said Wendy Hanamura, station manager for San Francisco-based Link TV. Based on online voting, six films in each category were selected as finalists. They can be viewed at www.linktv.org/onenation. Khan is the only person to have three films selected.
Winners will be selected Wednesday by a panel of celebrity judges, including Danny Glover and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. A total of $50,000 in prize money will be awarded.
The winners will be shown during a primetime special on Link TV, Hanamura said. A DVD featuring the winning films will be created and distributed to schools across the country, she said. (MORE)