There are no feature length contemporary documentaries about Ramadan that I’m aware of. Last year, I was looking around for something to draw some inspiration from – I felt I needed more focus, and that a good view of what others go through, would do it. I did come across an old film, which was so outdated, it may have been filmed by the BBC, or some European film company in the 70’s.
It had the feel of one of those really old “National Geographic” specials, about some lost African tribe, observing this weird ritualistic pagan practice. That’s when the decision was made to shoot and direct my first documentary.
To say that this has been a “learning curve”, is a huge understatement – it has really been more of a “learning polygon”. From the technical challenges of shooting, scripting, lighting, sound designing and general do-it-yourself guy to managing a multi-city filming sequence, for a first documentary, is a challenge – to say the least. We’ve shot over thirty hours of footage, and hit almost every bump in the road – from a grandmother who dropped by during one of our shoots, who took it as a personal insult that the crew would dare try to work while she visited her family, to a camera breaking in the midst of another shoot, to a family member who decided that she would now wear the hijab – and we may need to consider throwing out the hours of footage shot previously where she was not wearing it! Well, after consulting with a local Imam, we actually got the hijab issue worked out – and only now, can I truly appreciate the “magic” in movie-making.
“American Ramadan” is a view into the everyday lives of Muslims, and it’s a statement of how practicing Muslims are really no different than any other practicing people. It’s interesting to note, that as we interviewed the scholars, there was a recurring pattern to their views, faiths and opinions – the Rabbi, the Christian doctor and the Muslim scholars, at the core of their message say the same thing, but the dressing is slightly different. We all pray, fast and live to be closer to God, whether we’re Muslim, Jewish, Christian or any other faith – it’s just our approach that may differ in degrees.
I was fortunate for having a great crew, Imran Randhawa who led the second camera unit in Dallas, Murad Aldin – our Los Angeles unit cameraman and unit co-director, and our samurai editor, Nathan Lewan, who knows how to slice and dice in FCP, like he’s on fire. The crew has had the not-so-enviable job of answering to the every changing and evolving script as we moved along our timeline, having to go back for more and more shoots. Like I said, not a “learning-curve”.., but a “learning polygon”!
We’ve already gotten so many great reviews and encouragement from around the world, and support from the local communities has been overwhelming. Of course, fund raising for the project, like any independent work, is an on-going effort as well. I’m looking forward to hearing from media networks and individuals who share our vision of building bridges through media, and promoting positive works in the future.
Filmmaker, Writer and New Dad
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