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Film festival highlights diversity of Muslim community, culture

PERTH, Australia: Austria’s first Muslim Film Festival has started showcasing an array of films from national and international producers, celebrating the diversity of the Muslim filmmaking community and exploring different themes among them including the growing issue of anti-Islamic sentiment in our community.

Highlighting salient features of the event, Festival Director Joanne McKeown said, “We wanted to have films that addressed different issues, particularly to break down prejudice and misconceptions about Muslims and to humanize our stories.”

“The festival is aiming to promote inclusion, tolerance, friendship and introduce Muslim society, culture and stories to as wide an audience as possible,” he indicated.

The festival aims to raise awareness about various issues and topics such as Islamophobia, the hijab, attitudes towards women and Muslim culture and various international political issues.

Six of the featured filmmakers are Australians, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and explore issues as diverse as culture, relationships, Islamophobia and racism.

The festival is organised by Perth-based Badayel House and supported by the Office of Multicultural Interests in West Australia, Islamic Council of WA, Islamic Co-operative Finance Australia Ltd and the Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations.

Australian film ‘Found’ directly addresses Islamophobia after the 9/11 attacks and ‘Gift’ takes a different view on Islamophobia, with an explosive twist. ‘Creed’, filmed in Melbourne, addresses the challenges faced by the young Muslims in fitting in and observing their faith.

Inspired by a novel of a Pakistani writer Ghulam Abbas, filmmaker Fazal Subhani produced ‘Overcoat’, a short film highlighting the plight of homelessness.

“The films are of a very high calibre and cover a multitude of topics. We had a large pool of entries and choosing the finalists was tough. However, I feel that we have some worthy winners. Both Perth and Melbourne need an event of this nature, which celebrates our diversity and our creative arts,” Media spokesperson Kuranda Seyit said while commenting on the collection of films in the events.

“This year’s festival will screen 36 films from Australia and around the world, in eight sessions between Perth and Melbourne with a total show time of over 1,400 minutes in four different theatres.”

“The festival returns the control of Muslim stories to the Muslim community. It provides an opportunity for us to hear from one another and find unity in diversity,” festival organizer Tarek Chamkhi remarked.

“Our community has gathered from every corner of the globe and we live very separate lives. The festival brings us together to find our common ground. Inviting the non-Muslim community provides an opportunity for discussion and connection that can’t be found elsewhere.”

The screening was held at Backlot Theatre in Perth on September 8 and 9, 2019. Screenings in Melbourne will be held on September 14 and 15.