List

Muslim Stories and Voices in Film

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

The USC report Missing and Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies found a severe lack of Muslim representation in film. These films feature and center Muslim stories that move beyond stereotypes and show the complexity and diversity of the Muslim community.

  • The Message

    2005

    This Islamic epic created in 1976 chronicles the life and times of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and the birth of Islam. Unlike other religious films, the makers of this film honor the Islamic tradition, which prohibits the impersonation of the Prophet. The movie holds great importance in the Muslim community, like that of Cecile DeMille's The Ten Commandments in the Christian and Jewish communities. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Inside Mecca

    2003

    Inside Mecca is an insightful look into the fifth pillar of the Islam. This documentary follows three Muslims as they embark on this journey of a lifetime. In spite of physical and mental challenges, the pilgrims reenact part of Abraham's journey. Recommended by Douglas and Michelle.

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  • Between Allah and Me (And Everyone Else)

    2016

    The hijab, a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women, is highly discussed within and outside of the Muslim community. Many people are unaware that the hijab is a personal choice and a relationship established between the individual and Allah (the Arabic word for God). This enlightening and candid documentary explores the challenges faced by four practicing Muslim women in North America as they decide to start or stop wearing hijab and how the hijab is perceived by others. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Mooz-lum

    2011

    Tariq Mahdi struggles with his identity and faith. Writer/director Qasim Basir used his own experiences growing up Muslim as a broad basis for the movie. This coming-of-age film set in the wake of 9/11 is memorable, thoughtful, and authentic. Recommended by Douglas, Rummanah, and Sharon.

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  • Life Without Basketball

    2019

    Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir was the first hijabi Muslim woman to play NCAA Division I basketball and was well on her way to the WNBA, but her dream of turning pro was blocked by the International Basketball Federation's ruling on not allowing any headgear. This insightful documentary shows how Bilqis' faith and identity were pitted against her dreams. Unable to play, she started the organization Muslim Girls Run Hoop Too and help paved the way for other Muslim female athletes. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • The Perfect Candidate

    2021

    A staff favorite. Saudi director/writer Haifaa al-Mansour delivers a thoughtful, empowering, and unapologetically feminist film. The story focuses on Dr. Maryam, who finds herself running in a local election in order to improve her community. Her candidacy shakes up the community as she pushes for acceptance, respect, and her voice to be heard. Recommended by Rummanah and Sharon.

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  • Le Grand Voyage

    2005

    This unusual road trip movie spotlights the tenuous relationship between a Moroccan religious father and his irreligious French-born son named Reda. Reda is summoned to take his father via car to Mecca for his father's hajj. As they journey through the south of France to Mecca, they encounter various strangers all the way. While religion and politics form the backdrop of the movie, the film is more interested in the intergenerational clash and the desperate need to understand one another. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Mogul Mowgli

    2022

    Riz Ahmed makes his screenwriter debut and stars in this atmospheric and intimate drama about British Pakistani rapper Zed, who is diagnosed with an illness right before he is scheduled to go on his first world tour. The illness forces Zed to confront his discomfort and his struggle to figure out his heritage and his identity. The rap monologues show Ahmed as his most vulnerable. The BAFTA nominated film is directed by Pakistani American Bassam Tariq, who is scheduled to direct Marvel's reboot of Blade. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Breaking Fast

    2021

    Nominated for this year's GLAAD award for Outstanding Film in Limited Release. Mike Mosallam directs a heartwarming romantic comedy set during Ramadan in which Mo, a practicing Muslim living in West Hollywood, is learning to navigate life post-heartbreak until he unexpectedly meets Kal. The movie's portrayal of a cross-cultural relationship and its exploration of the intersectionality between identity, culture, and faith is refreshing, heartfelt, and introspective. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Blinded by the Light

    2019

    Inspired by the life and nonfiction book by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, set in 1987 Great Britain, the story follows Javed, a British Pakistani Muslim, who discovers Bruce Springsteen's music and finds that he strongly identifies with the songs. It helps him cope with problems and frustrations, relationships, economic hardship, bigotry, as well as gain confidence to break with tradition, to pursue his dreams, and develop his own voice. Even if you know little or nothing about Springsteen, the movie does a wonderful job illustrating the lyrics and connecting them to Javed. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • The Breadwinner

    2018

    Based on the bestselling novel by Deborah Ellis, this movie is about a young Afghani girl named Parvana, who disguises herself as a young boy in order to find work to help her family survive. This stunning movie weaves traditional Afghani folktales into the narrative and many of the characters are voiced by Afghan actors. Nominated for an Oscar in 2018 for Best Animated Feature. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • The Color of Paradise

    2000

    This is an extremely moving and touching film that feels very natural. Despite the movie's simple plot, it is very powerful, and the different familial relationships which help the boy "see" elevate this from your stereotypical movie about people with disabilities. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • The Mauritanian

    2021

    An intense legal drama based on Mohamedou Ould Slahi's memoir Guantanamo Diary. This is the true story of Slahi's detainment in the notorious detention camp for 14 years without being charged with a crime. The acting is excellent, especially that of Tahar Rahim, who steals the show. Slahi has a new documentary called Guanatamo Revisited in which he expressed his desire to meet up with his captors and interrogators again for tea. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Jodái-e Náder az Simin: A Separation

    2012

    From filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, this is the first movie from Iran to win the Oscar for Best International Film, followed by his movie The Salesman, which won in 2017. This riveting story focuses on a married couple who separate and the ensuing fallout that affects their family and that of a hired caregiver. Farhadi excels at crafting layered domestic dramas that examine the human condition, social class divisions, moral dilemmas, and ethical issues. Recommended by Rummanah and Sharon.

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  • Children of Heaven

    1999

    Iranian writer/director Majid Majidi's sweet, family friendly movie genuinely touches the heart and opens our eyes. The story follows Ali, who loses his sister Zahra's pink shoes while on an errand and goes on a series of adventures in order to find them. The portrayal of the children is gentle, warm, and a pure delight to watch as this tale unwinds. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Fatima

    This Cesar award winning film tackles the themes of motherhood, assimilation, immigration, and prejudice through the eyes of a working single mother who feels estranged by her two daughters. The screenplay and performances are excellent in depicting realistic success and failures. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World

    2021

    This documentary simultaneously explores and celebrates the 1400-year cultural history of Islamic art and architecture. Whether documenting the beautiful interior of a mosque or the sheen of delicate textiles, this film's aim is to "[illuminate] the history of a global culture, reflecting the Islamic world as it developed over centuries and as it is today." Recommended by Paul.

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  • New Muslim Cool

    2015

    This documentary shines the light on the spiritual journey of Hamza Jason Perez, a young Puerto Rican religious convert who is constantly trying to reinvent himself to become a better person and to help improve his community. This thought provoking film not only dispels the common myth that Muslims are only from the Middle East and South Asia, but also shows the limitations of freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the United States. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl)

    2020

    Learning to Skateboard is a heartwarming and heartbreaking look into the lives of Afghan girls who secretly attend Skateistan, a charity-run school, and learn how to skateboard. Though the current state of Skateistan is unknown, its impact on the girls' lives is long lasting. The film is the winner of the 2020 Oscar for short documentary. Recommended by Rummanah and Sharon.

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