CA: MUSLIM MOVIE EXPLORES RELIGIOUS STRENGTH, HUMAN WEAKNESS
Be it as indulgent harem-masters, wealthy oil sheikhs or bomb-plotting religious extremists, most dramatizations of Muslims on the big screen have done little in the way of presenting the realities of the faith or three dimensional human characters with whom audiences could identify. But a new independent film currently in production may provide the first real glimpse of Muslims, their strengths as well as weaknesses.
"Oasis 7" is the working title of a new, full-length motion picture scripted by Ahmed Nasir Kiyam and director Edreace Purmul and produced by the San Diego based, Muslim-owned film company Scimitar Productions. Laden with symbolism and heavy social relevance reminiscent of a Spike Lee flick, Oasis 7 is a gritty look at the life of an urban youth, ( played by African American actor Chris Metcalf) fighting the past, uncertain of the future and propelled by fate through an odyssey of emotions, violence and self-discovery. Executive Producer Halim Mostafa Gabori clearly hopes that audiences will take a similar path of discovery, leaving theatres entertained but also unsettled.
'We're going to break some stereotypes," says Gabori, "Usually Hollywood shows Muslims as being emotional, rude, ignorant-everything that is opposite of peaceful. This film will show Muslims being intelligent, knowledgeable-but also capable of making mistakes."
Gabori knows firsthand how media can shape perspectives. Born in Kurdistan, he came to the US in 1978, studied film and theatre at the Milwaukee Area Technical College and has himself appeared as a 'good Arab" in movies such as "Three Kings" alongside George Clooney and Ice Cube and also a 'bad Arab' in "Peor que los Peros" directed by Miguel A. Saldana.
"I have always wanted to see the beauty of Islam portrayed in the cinema," says Gabori. "For some reason, we've had this notion that movies are associated with sin. But movies and television are not evil in themselves. If you make films that explain the reality and show the morality of people, it is a good thing."
Gabori adds that through the film he hopes to "show the greatness of Islam as well as the weaknesses of some Muslims." Speaking about the responsibility of Muslims, he says, "We've been mistreated in the media, but we also want to hold Muslims accountable for not teaching others about their religion and their culture."
A key component of the script is highlighting the current national climate through the prism of the African American experience, "African Americans, have dealt with the legacy of slavery and prejudice so they know what Muslims feel like being under so much pressure today," remarks Gabori.