while shooting our documentary about moderate muslims in america, my friend (and cameraman) jae wilson and i met mark dixon and ben evans at spot coffee, downtown. this was last year. they were filming their own documentary called your environmental road trip. in their own words, “it’s a year-long eco-expedition through all 50 united states. with video camera in hand and tongue in cheek, we’re exploring the landscape of america’s unique approach to environmental sustainability”. we interviewed them and they interviewed us. they wanted to shoot outdoors. it was late at night and painfully cold. i was telling them how i’m allergic to hummers. they used a tiny bit of that conversation in this video clip. check them out at www.yert.com . they’re funny and what they have to say is important.
so i am an artist and filmmaker and i’m presently working on a documentary about mainstream muslims, which is most muslims out there. the only problem is that they’re completely invisible. when you can do a story about gun-toting terrorists and their burqa-wielding better halves why bother with the vast majority of us who are just like everybody else? well, i bothered. maybe because i can feel the frustration of being invisible or maybe it’s just that i’m tired of being represented by people i cannot relate to. whether it’s the raggedy suicide bomber or the westernized muslim “insider” who’s made a cottage industry out of denouncing islam – i have problems with both.
an essential part of getting to know muslims on film is getting to know non-muslims first. the film has to acquire the form of a dialogue. i wanted to survey a cross section of non-muslim americans and ask them what they thought about islam and muslims in general. i wanted them to frame the questions i was going to pose to muslim interviewees. to this end i went to starry nites cafe today along with thom marini, my cinematographer. customer traffic was disappointingly slow but we got a few people to do a vox pop. vox populi is latin for “voice of the people”. it’s a technique used in documentary filmmaking to gauge popular opinion by asking a large number of random people the same question and aggregating their responses. thom and i filmed for about 3 hours and got some interesting questions. many women wanted to know about female subjugation in islam. one woman made a brief but cogent statement that was so wonderfully phrased i’m tempted to use it as a closing. the sun was out and we had plenty of light inside the cafe, which is visually stunning anyway. it was all good.