The debut feature of an Afghan-German director joined the running for the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival Wednesday, one of a clutch of features taking a fresh look at Islam at this year's event.
Lights,Camera and Action!...at the Red Carpet area
"Shahada" (Faith), the film school graduation project of
29-year-old Burhan Qurbani, is competing against 19 features by the
likes of Roman Polanski and Chinese veteran Zhang Yimou at one of
Europe's top cinema showcases.
The picture zeroes in on three young Muslims in Berlin
struggling with an unexpected pregnancy, gay love and a freak
accident that cause each of them to question the Islamic values
imparted by their families.
It picks up recurrent themes in several entries at the 60th
Berlinale, where drama, comedies and thrillers are reconciling
modern life in the West with the Muslim faith.
"Terrorism, honour killings, fundamentalism and female
oppression. The themes of films in the Berlin festival lineup this
year could read like a series of banner headlines from Fox News,"
the Hollywood Reporter wrote, referring to the conservative US
"But instead of sensationalism and stereotypes, what the
films... offer are new images of Islam."
Qurbani said he had aimed to demonstrate that people who are
fully engaged in modern society can also observe their faith, and
"I'm a Muslim but Muslim 2.0 -- an upgrade," he told a news
conference after a press preview.
"You are Muslim even if you don't do everything that is in the
Koran. The faith is too big to be diminished by that."
He bristled when a German reporter questioned the plausibility
of one of his characters, a moderate, tolerant imam who forgives his
daughter for her abortion when she nearly dies due to
"I don't know how many imams you spoke to recently but they are
not all hate preachers -- 99 percent of them are not hate
preachers," he said.
But he acknowledged: "I created this imam as my ideal -- I also
haven't met one like him."
Hindu-Islam on spotlight
Also in Berlin, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan presented his
new movie "My Name is Khan" about discrimination faced by Muslims in
the United States in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Tolerance 21st century style:My name is Khan
The nearly three-hour-long epic -- a lightning rod for
Hindu-Islamic tension in India after Khan criticised the lack of
Pakistani cricketers in the Indian Premier League -- sees Khan
preaching against hatred on an American road trip.
The Times of India said it sent a message "that tolerance is the
indispensable virtue for the 21st century which can have no place
for (fundamentalists), regionalists, communalists, casteists,
gender, class and cultural chauvinists".
A more modest picture, "When We Leave" in the Panorama sidebar
section of the festival, tackles honour killings, focusing on a
German-Turkish woman whose father condemns her to die after she
leaves her abusive husband.
A slice of Hollywood, Pierce Brosnan (L)Olivia Williams(c)and Ewan Mcgregor(L)of 'The Ghost Writer'
The film resonated in particular with Berlin audiences as it
stars Sibel Kekilli, who dazzled audiences in the breakout film by
German-Turkish director Fatih Akin "Head-On", which won the Golden
Bear in 2004.
Immediately after the film's triumph, the German tabloid press
revealed that Kekilli had appeared in a few adult movies, leading
her conservative Muslim family to disown her.
Still to come in competition this week is "On the Path" by
another former Golden Bear winner, Jasmila Zbanic of Bosnia.
In it, a husband finds work in a community of conservative
Wahhabi Muslims and begins to adopt its practices but he drives a
wedge through his marriage in the process.
The Berlinale jury will award the top prizes Saturday before the
festival wraps up the following day.
AFP 171124 GMT FEB 10