The magic of film lies in its power to transport and transform the viewer. When a movie drops us into unfamiliar communities and traditions, we can learn so much through openness and observation. Ramadan began exactly one week ago, and with that in mind we wanted to share a short list of some films that explore the Muslim-American experience.
Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) wrote this romantic comedy based on his own experiences finding his footing between his traditional Muslim family, and his life in New York City (aka the ultimate American melting pot). The blockbuster hit did a great job of illustrating the difficulties that interracial couples face when dealing with cultural differences, and ultimately paints a beautiful portrait of what can happen when we open our hearts.
This 2012 political thriller was directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Salaam Bombay!) and boasts an incredible cast including Riz Ahmed (The Night Of), Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber and Kiefer Sutherland. Set during the aftermath of 9/11, Riz Ahmed plays Changez Khan, a Princeton-educated Wall Street man who is torn between his native country and the U.S. after anti-Muslim sentiment becomes widespread. Exploring themes of xenophobia and tolerance, the film is worth watching alone for Ahmed’s moving performance.
His catchphrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” is familiar to us all, but a key period of Ali’s life between ’64 to ’74 hadn’t been brought to the big screen until the release of this 2001 film. Will Smith’s performance as American icon Muhammad Ali was so powerful and well-received, that Smith was chosen to serve as a pallbearer at Ali’s funeral in 2016. There’s a lot to unpack in this film, but the emotional journey you’ll go on is well worth it.