Muslim Journeys Bookshelf Films

The following films have been included in the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys. Please see below for film descriptions, information about public performance rights, and general curriculum developed by national scholars for use in presenting free viewing and discussion programs for public audiences.

Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World (2011)

Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible WorldThis ninety-minute film takes audiences on an epic journey across nine countries and more than 1,400 years of history. It explores the richness of Islamic art in objects big and small, from great ornamented palaces and the play of light in monumental mosques to the exquisite beauty of ceramics, carved boxes, paintings, and metal work. It revels in the use of color and finds commonalities in a shared artistic heritage with the West and East. The film also examines the unique ways in which Islamic art turns calligraphy and the written word into masterpieces and develops water into an expressive, useful art form.

Like all art, Islamic art carries with it the fundamental values and perspectives of the artists who created it as well as those who commissioned and paid for it. It incorporates the basic themes of transcendent beauty common to all creative endeavors. The film reveals the variety and diversity of Islamic art, offering a window into Islamic culture and a variety of perspectives on enduring themes that have propelled human history and fueled the rise of world civilization over the centuries.

  • Public Performance Rights: NEH and the ALA have confirmed that all libraries and state humanities councils participating in the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf are authorized to host free, public screenings of Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World. If for any reason your institution requires emailed or printed confirmation of the public performance and screenings rights for the film, please email Unity Productions Foundation at outreach@upf.tv.
  • Program Resources: Two Islamic art scholars featured in the film, Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, developed materials (PDF)—including an introduction to the film, viewing considerations for the audience, and sample discussion points—for use in presenting viewing and discussion programs that feature Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World. For additional background information about the film and other materials that may be of use developing viewing and discussion programs, please see the Islamic Art website.

Prince Among Slaves (2007)

Prince Among SlavesIn 1788, the slave ship Africa set sail from West Africa, headed for the West Indies filled with a profitable but highly perishable cargo—hundreds of men, women, and children bound in chains. Six months later, one of its human cargo, a twenty-six-year-old man named Abdul Rahman, was transported and sold in Natchez, Mississippi. According to legends that developed around Abdul Rahman in antebellum America, he made the remarkable claim to the farmer who purchased him at the auction that he was an “African prince” and that his father would pay gold for his return. The offer was refused, and Abdul Rahman did not return to Africa for another forty years. During his enslavement he toiled on the Foster plantation, married, and fathered nine children. His story also made him one the most famous Africans in America for a time, attracting the attention of powerful men such as Secretary of State Henry Clay.

After forty years of slavery, Abdul Rahman finally reclaimed his freedom, but he defied his former master’s demand that the federal government return him immediately to Africa, and instead traveled throughout the northern states, speaking to large audiences in a partially successful attempt to raise enough money to buy his children’s freedom. Finally at the age of sixty-seven, and after raising funds to free two of his children, Abdul Rahman returned to Africa, only to fall ill and die just as word of his arrival reached his former home of Futa Jallon in present-day Guinea.

  • Public Performance Rights: NEH and the ALA have confirmed that all libraries and state humanities councils participating in the Muslim Journey Bookshelf are authorized to host free, public screenings of Prince Among Slaves. A confirmation of performance rights is attached to the DVD that was mailed with Bookshelf award materials. If you have any questions about performance rights, please email Unity Productions Foundation at outreach@upf.tv.
  • Program Resources: National project scholar Kambiz GhaneaBassiri developed materials (PDF)—including an introduction to the film, viewing considerations for the audience, and sample discussion points—for use in presenting viewing and discussion programs that feature Prince Among Slaves.

Koran By Heart (2011)

Koran By Heart“There is a passage in the Qur’an that says if you memorize the Qur’an and teach it to others, you will be successful in this life and the next life.” In Koran by Heart, the young scholar who says this has already committed the entire Muslim holy book to memory. He has also earned a place in the Islamic world’s oldest Qur’an memorization contest—though he’s only ten.

Every year, about one hundred of Islam’s best young students from around the world come to Cairo for the International Holy Koran Competition. Many are in their late teens, some as young as seven. Koran by Heart follows the progress of three scholars, a girl and two boys, all ten years old, as they compete against students who, in some instances, are nearly twice their age.

Scheduled during Ramadan, the two-week event is both grueling and exhilarating. The competitors adhere to the practice of daytime fasting prescribed for the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, and the rounds sometimes go well past midnight. But the boys and girls recite before audiences of clergy and family members who, though discerning, are full of admiration. Introducing a child who is about to recite, a cleric says, “We must praise God when we look at this boy.” The finals are broadcast on Egyptian national television.

Koran by Heart captures the skill, determination, and faith of the young competitors, but never lets the viewer forget that they are children: the solemn girl we watch as she accepts a prize from the president of Egypt is the same high-spirited kid who squeals with delight on her first camel ride.

  • Public Performance Rights: HBO has extended public performance rights for libraries and state humanities councils that are participating in the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf to host free, public screenings of Koran By Heart, January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2015. Read the public performance right details (PDF).
  • Program Resources: National project scholar Frederick M. Denny developed materials (PDF)—including an introduction to the film, viewing considerations for the audience, and sample discussion points—for use in presenting viewing and discussion programs that feature Koran By Heart. Bookshelf participants may also wish to visit the Koran By Heart website.

Islamic Art Spots (2013)

Islamic Art SpotsIslamic Art Spots are seven illustrated video essays written, developed, and presented by Professor D. Fairchild Ruggles and produced by Twin Cities Public Television as part of the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys project. These video essays provide an introduction to Islamic art and architecture in a way that relates to the project themes and readings, referencing additional primary source texts. Download the Islamic Art Spots guide (PDF).

Bookshelf participants will receive a DVD of Islamic Art Spots in February 2013, and each video can also be streamed online.