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US Art Documentary Redraws Muslim Image

Published: 24/03/2012 01:21:11 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Fourteen centuries of profound Islamic art will be celebrated in a new documentary film that takes a global look at Islamic art and architecture in a way that redraws a complete image of a dazzling civilization.The (more)

CAIRO - Fourteen centuries of profound Islamic art will be celebrated in a new documentary film that takes a global look at Islamic art and architecture in a way that redraws a complete image of a dazzling civilization.

The film reflects "the whole breadth and depth of Islamic civilization," filmmaker Alex Kronemer, who has a master's degree in theological studies from Harvard University, told Toledo Blade on Saturday, March 24.

The new documentary, Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World, will have its premiere on Sunday at the Toledo Museum of Art.

Taking a new scope of the Islamic culture, the 90-minute film goes through 1400-year history of Islamic art.

It also spans different categories of art from calligraphy and painting to architecture of the world's great mosques.

Kronemer noted that the film would show the result of centuries of collaboration between different cultures which resulted in the creation of a great art and civilization.

"When you take such an approach, you're kind of reminded that the conflicts and the tensions that consume a particular time or place in history tend to be forgotten, and what remains, what endures, are the cultural productions," he said in an interview this week.

"The thing that was most interesting, as the various scholars that we interviewed began to tell the story, was that the thread that ties together many of these great works of art is that they were all made at a crossroads of cultures, where people of the quote-unquote Islamic world were interacting with folks around them."

The film is produced by the nonprofit Unity Productions Foundation film company, founded in 1999 by Kronemer and Michael Wolfe.

Announced a stated goal of creating "peace through the media," UPF's previous documentaries include Inside Islam; Muhammed: Legacy of a Prophet; and Prince Among Slaves.

The United States is home to an estimated Muslim minority of nearly eight million.

Full Context

Tracing centuries of Islamic art development, the documentary film tries to draw a complete image of a great civilization that was reduced to images of a minority of extremists.

"I think that in the minds of many, Islam has become a caricature," Kronemer said.

"It is a caricature of [ticked-off] people who are just angry at the West and that's it, that's all we need to know.

“Besides the fact that there's so much contemporary evidence to the contrary, the Islamic world is so large and so diverse, and I think that this film really shows the sensitivity and the sensuality that is a very big part of the Islamic story and serves in some ways to rebut the caricatures,” he added.

Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown sharply in the US in recent months over plans to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.

In Hollywood, the world's cinema industry hub, Muslims and Arabs usually play the stereotypical blood-thirst terrorists or the uncivilized and greedy.

The head of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), America's largest Jewish movement, has accused US media of demonizing Islam and portraying Muslims as "satanic figures."

A 2007 survey by Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum found that the majority of Americans know very little about the practices of Islam.

It indicated that attitudes toward Muslims and Islam have grown more negative in recent years.

Kronemer, who served at the Bureau of Human Rights in the US State Department, focusing on US foreign policy and Islam, hopes the film will correct mistaken notions about Islam.

"Without the full context of America, you would jump to conclusions based on a very skewed view,” he said.

“What we're trying to do in general is provide bigger stories that go beyond the headlines."

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