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4 films to watch at the seventh annual Milwaukee Muslim Film Festival

An Act of Worship
MKE Film
Still from "An Act of Worship" — a film that explores the last 30 years of Muslim life in America, particularly the impact of anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy on young Muslims who came of age after 9/11.

Launched by the Milwaukee Muslim Women Coalition in 2015, the Milwaukee Muslim Film Festivalshares films from around the world to encourage reflection and meaningful discussion about Muslims and their experiences.

The festival kicks off its seventh year of programming tonight at the Oriental Theater. The festival was founded by Janan Najeeb who is also the current president and founding member of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition.

After the lingering effects of the pandemic hampered the festival's turn out in 2021, Najeeb highly anticipates this year's festival turnout and is excited about the works that will be shown — consisting of compelling documentaries as well as dramas. Najeeb details four of the featured films from this year's festival lineup:

An Act of Worship — Thursday October 20 @ 7 p.m.

The film is a portrait of the last 30 years of Muslim life in America told through the lens of Muslims living in the United States, offering a counter-narrative of pivotal moments in U.S. history. It also explores the impact of anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy on young Muslims who came of age after 9/11.

"This is a unique film because this was put together by an all-Muslim crew, many of them female," notes Najeeb. "And it talks about really the effects of Islamophobia on particularly young people, college students, [as well as] individuals and families that felt that they had to hide their identity. So it is really important, because we are concerned that we don't go back to that sort of thing."

Wandering, A Rohingya Story — Saturday October 22 @ 12:30 p.m.

"What's unique about the film is that it's almost very poetic," says Najeeb. "[The film] highlights the way that many of the Rohingya people have had to live in refugee camps — not by any crime of their own but because of prejudice and bigotry. They suffered genocide and were forced out of their country and live in this very difficult environment."

"I think it's really important for people to understand what the refugee experience is so when we do open our doors to refugees [we realize that] it's a humanitarian act," she adds.

Boycott — Sunday October 23 @ 12:30 p.m.

This film chronicles the impact of a wave of legislation in 33 states, including Wis., designed to penalize individuals and companies that choose to boycott Israel due to its human rights record.

Najeeb says, "[A state policy was implemented] under former Governor Scott Walker, where if anyone wants to have a contract with the state of $100,000 or more, they need to sign a contract prohibiting them from being involved with any boycott... it's a violation of the Constitution. So [Boycott] is the story of a school teacher [and other plaintiffs] that had to fight against that."

The Mauritanian — Sunday October 23 @ 6:30 p.m.

Premiering at last year's festival, this film has returned this year. "The Mauritanian is really one of the most compelling films that we've probably shown over the seven years that we've been having festivals," says Najeeb. It follows the life of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian national who spent 14 years detained in Guantanamo Bay without being charged or given a chance to have a trial before meeting defense attorney Nancy Hollander and beginning the journey to freedom. It is based on a book and details the torture that Slahi and other detainees endured.

The festival begins tonight and goes until Sunday, Oct. 23 and the full lineup and tickers are available online.Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the Oriental theatre.


Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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