my first feature length documentary “the muslims i know” opened on june 8, 2008 at the dyrden theatre in rochester. about 300 people showed up. the response to the film was terrific and it was followed by a robust, hour long discussion.
june foster, the executive director, rochester/finger lakes film & video office, introduced me and the film. i spoke briefly about why i made the film and thanked many of the people present that afternoon who had helped with this project. here is my speech:
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the world premiere of “The Muslims I Know”.
Today is a big day for me. It is the culmination of two years of hard work and the realization of a dream. Since 2001 there has been a concerted effort by the media to paint Islam and Muslims with one broad brushstroke – that of the radical, anti-modern, warmongering jihadist, a growing threat to our so-called way of life. The endorsement of this propaganda by the government has produced a culture of fear. The results have been devastating. This language of “us” vs. “them” has created distance and misunderstanding rather than what is needed, which is dialogue. This is the goal of the film you are about to see. It re-iterates something we all know instinctively – that rapprochement is always possible.
I wanted “The Muslims I Know” to open in Rochester because so many people here today have been instrumental in the making of this film starting of course with all the compelling, charismatic people who appear in the documentary and whom you will meet shortly.
But I would also like to thank:
Thom Marini for being an excellent cinematographer and an even more excellent human being,
June Foster for being my mentor and a source of unwavering support from the get go,
Nora Brown, Barry Goldfarb and all the volunteers today for their invaluable help with this event,
Cat Ashworth, Chuck Munier and Dave Sluberski for their amazing talent and their advice,
Teagan Ward for her beautiful songs,
Sarita Arden, Ruth and Russel Peck and Judy Bello for becoming brilliant ambassadors for this project,
My brother who drove from NJ to be here today and who also did the film’s musical score,
My beautiful family, and finally
All the wonderful friends who gave me feedback and support, posted flyers, sent out emails, spread the word about this film, and are present here today –
Thank you all.
I hope you enjoy the film and I look forward to your questions after the screening. We will invite some of the people featured in the film to join the discussion as well.