By Heather Yamour
WASHINGTON, Aug 9 (KUNA) -- US filmmakers use experience to bridge the
cross-cultural divide, and to breakdown stereotypes, by offering a unique
window into the lives of American Muslims, and a chance to win USD 50,000 in
The "One Nation, Many Voices" online film contest, which kicked off this
month, asks filmmakers to create a short video that "reflects the American
Muslim experience" and is open to any US citizen, regardless of race or
"We felt the best way to improve perspectives of American Muslims is by
getting out more stories, good stories, and what better way is there than to
ask Americans to tell good stories about their American Muslim neighbors," One
Nation's Executive Vice President, Al-Husein Madhany, told KUNA in an
He added that the goal of the film contest is to "hear more voice from the
American Muslim community about what it is to be American and Muslim".
"No matter what our cultural and ethnic backgrounds are or how we choose to
express our spirituality, as Americans we all have shared values, beliefs and
responsibilities," the organization said in an online statement.
In one video, trying to dispel a common stereotype that Muslims in the US
prefer only prefer Middle Eastern food, one filmmaker said, "Falafel is
actually not my favorite type of food."
"The Islamic message is bigger than just about us," says another filmmaker.
The contest, which lasts until September 26, 2008, is awarding USD 50,000
in prizes for five assignment categories -- Public Service, American Muslim
Life, Youth Story, American Muslim Women, and Two Faiths, One Film -- through
documentary, animation, drama, spoken word, or music video formats.
Finalists in each category win USD 5,000 and a flip camera, and compete for
a chance to win the USD 20,000 top prize for the most creative new video.
The contest organizers, One Nation for All, is a California-based
non-profit organization, and comprises of multi-faith philanthropists,
including academics, scholars, business leaders, and faith leaders, all
concerned about "the way American Muslims are being perceived in the media,"
One Nation works with co-sponsors LinkTV, a free satellite channel, and
with Unity Productions Studio to arrange the second-annual online film
contest. LinkTV will air the winning contest on its television satellite
Madhany pointed out that a new category was introduced to this year, the
"Two Faiths, One Film" category, which looks to "highlight good stories of
American Muslims being good neighbors, and good Americans" and help dispel
some of the negative stereotypes and misperceptions that have precipitated in
the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the war in Iraq.
Two main misperceptions that exist in the US, according to Madhany, are
that Muslims are not fully committed to American values and democracy in
society, and do not care about the "future success of the United States,"
which prompted One Nation to start the film contest.
"It's those very perceptions we are trying to do away with through the film
contest," said Madhany.
Last year's top prize winning entry, out of over 100 submissions, was a
music video titled "A Land Called Paradise" by independent filmmaker Lena
Khan. It showed the different races, colors, shapes and sizes of American
born, or American bred Muslims, and featured the thoughts and comments
gathered from over 2,000 Muslims across the US.
Film is a crucial medium to bridge the wide cross-cultural divide that
exists between the Muslim community and other Americans, explained Madhany
because "when you ware looking to be entertained, people reserve judgment and
let their guard down," unlike while watching news programs where people
"expect a particular tone of news."
"Our hope is that through this entertaining medium of television, people
will me more inclined to suspend their judgment about the preconceived
misperceptions of the American Muslims community and hopefully be enamored by
what they see" such as "good examples of Muslims being good Americans, and be
willing to accept that message," Madhany said.
The winner in each category is selected by both online voters and a
seven-member panel of judges. This year's judges include Grammy award-winning
musician, Kenneth Gamble; Ausma Khan, editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl magazine;
Callie Khouri, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Thelma and Louise; top US
Muslim comedian Preacher Moss.
The submitted films are available online at www.linktv/onenation. (end)
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