American Muslim

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TYPE
: Documentary
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production

LOGLINE

As Muslims across the country are vilified by the President, the filmmaker explores how Muslims in NYC are coping in this new social landscape.

SYNOPSIS

As the new President targets Muslims with alarming prejudice , the filmmaker sets out to explore diverse Muslim communities across New York City. From recent immigrants to longtime American citizens, Muslims are seen coping with—and battling against—Islamaphobia, while staying true to themselves in this new landscape.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

Throughout my career I have found it essential to alternate working on different kinds of films, each with their own style of storytelling. As an editor, I have learned the importance of varying the subject, style, and approach to films in order to insure the material itself drives the story, and not become stuck in patterns of problem-solving. Likewise, the documentaries I’ve made have all been distinct; again, instituting a fresh approach, and avoiding formulaic solutions. I intend to frame the film through my own viewpoint with personal voiceover, laying out my motivation right at the start. Additionally, while I had a terrific DP shoot my last two films, I’ve chosen to shoot this film primarily myself – yes, it makes the process more direct, the discovery more hands on and ‘tactile,’ but it also avoids the need for funding early on, and to “shoot” my way into the story, not to write or “fundraise” my way in. So far I have filmed (and obtained releases) with over two dozen people in eight different Muslim communities. In almost all cases people have been open to my visiting, asking questions, and my wanting to learn and understand them and their communities. I have been pleased at the cooperation I’ve received, particularly as they all know that I’m Jewish and not from their world. Most Muslims I’ve met seem to recognize that unlike the harsh spotlight they experienced after 9/11, when many communities isolated themselves to try and “ride out the storm,” they now see the importance of having their stories heard and understood. There is a clear narrative storyline available here. The story might begin on January 21 when I accompanied a busload of Afghan women from Queens to the Women’s March in Washington, or two weeks later when the Muslim Ban was first announced and I filmed protests at JFK airport and in downtown New York. This would inevitably continue with various other executive orders leading up to the Supreme Court ruling during this current term. But the film will not be wed to these events, as I believe this public story is somewhat known. My plan is to use that skeleton in order to tell less known stories, interweaving each of half a dozen characters as their portraits unfold over the film’s length. But it’s the small stories that make up this film—families coming together every night during Ramadan, Mohammed Bahe finding a Syrian woman with three children abandoned by her husband and literally changing their lives, young men in Jamaica folding up the tarps used by 15,000 participants in prayer and running, turning them into blue sails on a late summer morning. The film will alternate between the public and the private, the news cycle and the spiritual, the group effort and the intimate, adding up to a composite mosaic of being Muslim today.

KEY CREW

Adam Zucker - Director/Producer
Adam Zucker is a veteran documentary filmmaker and editor. His films include THE RETURN (2014), about four young Polish women, raised Catholic, who discovered they were Jewish and explore that newfound identity in Poland. It has screened at over 75 venues in 12 different countries. His previous independent doc, GREENSBORO: CLOSER TO THE TRUTH (2007), chronicled the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission held in the U.S. It received the Audience Award for Best Feature at the Rome International Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Dead Center Film Festival. Adam has also produced and directed episodes in the Emmy-winning PBS series FREE TO DANCE, about African-American contributions to modern dance. . He has edited dozens of documentaries for filmmakers as diverse as Rory Kennedy, Dori Berinstein, Ken Burns and Michael Kantor, with films that have screened on HBO, Showtime, American Masters, American Experience and many others. Adam has received grants from The Sundance Documentary Fund, The Southern Humanities Media Fund, The Jerome Foundation, The Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture, The Foundation for Jewish Culture, the New York State Council for the Arts and others.

Jack Youngelson - Consulting Producer
Jack Youngelson (Consulting Producer) is an Emmy award winning writer, producer, and director of documentary films. His projects have been shown by numerous broadcasters around the world, including PBS, HBO, BBC, and Channel Four. He directed the premiere episode of the three-part, six-hour series executive produced by Ken Burns, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies (PBS); that series received the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for excellence in documentary journalism. Other credits include: writer and producer of the Emmy Award-winning Mission Blue; writer and producer of Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, which won an Emmy for "Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special"; and director of Tierney Gearon: The Mother Project, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Other recent credits Ethel (Sundance, HBO), Electric Nation for the 4 part series, America Revealed (writer / producer); Rethinking Happiness for the 3 part, six hour NOVA series, This Emotional Life (writer / director); African American Lives II and Finding Your Roots (director / producer).

Paul Brill - Composer
Paul Brill is an American composer, songwriter, and producer. He has received 3 EMMY AWARD nominations for his scores for the films, “Full Battle Rattle” (National Geographic), “The Devil Came on Horseback” (Break Thru Films), and “The Trials of Darryl Hunt” (HBO), which was hailed by Variety as “memorably chilling, sounding notes of purest dread.” Paul recently won the 2011 Best Music Award from the International Documentary Association for his score for the film, “Better this World.” He scored the landmark, 6 hour PBS documentary, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” with noted historian Henry Louis Gates and additional musical contributions from Wynton Marsalis. Other notable documentaries include Adam Zucker’s “The Return,” the hit film, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” (IFC), “The Devil Came on Horseback,”” The Trials of Darryl Hunt,” the widely-acclaimed “Page One: Inside the NY Times” (Magnolia), as well as Christy Turlington Burns’ directorial debut, “No Woman, No Cry” (OWN), on which he collaborated with songwriter Martha Wainwright, and the film adaptation of the best-selling book, “Freakonomics” (Magnolia). He is also the composer for dozens of TV series and films for A&E, MTV, The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), History Channel, National Geographic, The Sundance Channel and ESPN, among others.

 

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