Good afternoon, Mr. Sharma.
I had the great fortune of meeting you on Monday, August 25th and a screening for your film at the Lumiere Theater in San Francisco.
The journey began with an email sent by my dear friend Marc Smolowicz to support the film soon after I heard a piece on Up Front's radio show about the piece.
I was drawn to see the film when I heard the clip of the South African imam.
I was working in another part of the city and am trying to commit more to public transportation, so was rushing to the busstop after a full day of setting up interviews for teaching artists for our school programs. I am a program director of a youth arts organization in San Francisco. My treat after a long day was to be infused with your film.
The bus arrived late and I got to the movie ticket window to purchase my ticket a few minutes after 7 pm. The kind woman took my card and ID and the purchase came back denied.
It's an ATM card and indeed had a positive balance so I insisted that I call my bank. I was going to see the film.
The staff at the Lumiere was gracious enough for me to use their phone, sit in the ticket office, and resolve the issue. Sure enough there was an error on the bank's end. While the bank representative was on the phone the ticket agent ran the card and my ticket was purchased.
I was so relieved!
I quietly and quickly rushed into the theater. The lights had gone dark and the film had started. I moved near the front and settled into my seat and placed my backpack next to me.
I was overlooking the ocean in South Africa and then following a penguin.
The dialog in the car between the imam and his children was sweet and honest. It reminded me of working with the youth I serve. The questions and responses come from a place of honesty one rarely gets from adults in "official" contexts.
Then on to Iran. Then on to Turkey...
I didn't know what to expect. I suppose I expected another lovely film about gay life, but this time set in the Muslim world. But I was touched to see Islam portrayed as a faith and not as a "regime", "other", "evil", "conservative", or "extremist".
I was raised Catholic, so I laugh whenever I see catholicism mis-portrayed by the news and media. There are still times when I have to explain the whole "3-in-1" God thing.
And I have some friends who are Muslim, so I feel I have a little handle on tradition and faith. I'm not surprised when Ramadan suddenly starts up again with its roving location on the Gregorian calendar because of how it falls in the lunar cycle.
But, honestly, I know Islam more factually through the news I seek. Some alternative news, but I don't understand Arabic yet in a way to get a non-news take on Islam. (Unless the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour counts.) Until this film, I had never seen women engage in Islam so intimately.
And I knew that was because of the gender holding the camera.
I've only ever seen men in mosque and set out prayer rugs.
I was so touched to see loving devotion in this way by women.
Thank you for filling in a blank spot in my understanding of how women devote themselves in their faith.
I also wanted to thank you for taking the time to answer the questions in the audience and being so kind as to shake my hand at the end of the screening. You allowed yourself to be vulnerable and shared how profound of an experience this was to create.
And I am excited for your next project, especially if it's a Bollywood film!
Please continue to pursue your work with the care and craft that you have in this movie. I'd be honored to thank you with a meal the next time you come to the Bay Area.
I look forward to continuing to support your work.