New Muslim Cool in Russia
By director/producer Jennifer Maytorena Taylor
I’m just back from a great international event – the Fifth Annual Golden Minbar Film Festival in Russia. Set in Kazan, the beautiful capital city of the republic of Tatarstan some 450 miles east of Moscow, the Golden Minbar is billed as the world’s biggest festival of Muslim cinema.
But to me the Golden Minbar Festival seemed much more than that. The films in the features, documentaries, and shorts categories came from all over the world, and not all were explicitly (or even implicitly) about Islam or Muslim issues.
The over-arching themes instead were about dialogue, crossing borders, globalization and displacement, and learning about each other in this complicated world far past our preconceived ideas. There were films dealing with Soviet history and Tatar traditions, Middle Eastern and Iranian history and contemporary issues, immigration, and the plight of children in Afghanistan, Africa, and Latin America.
Many of the films were somber, revealing deep anxieties and fissures between industrialized and developing countries. And yet the mood of the event itself was optimistic and even joyous, as participants gathered across national and religious lines of all kinds to see the films and learn about each other’s worlds.
Filmmakers and films came from such far-flung places as Iran, Bahrain, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Israel — and at any given time a group of people would represent at least six or seven countries. The audiences came from the very diverse communities that make up the city of Kazan –Russian, Tatar, Muslim, Christian, and many more.
I was amazed and delighted by the intense audience reactions to NEW MUSLIM COOL –the only documentary set in the United States – and was especially thrilled to see how many older people turned out for the film and really seemed to get it. They were really moved by the story of Hamza and his family and community, and all of the inter-faith and inter-community storylines.
The festival closed with a fabulous over-the-top gala featuring dancers and musicians in some very high production numbers mixing Vegas flash and Tatarstan tradition. We all got to ride for a block in limousines and emerge on the red carpet to legions of shouting fans – a definite first and likely a last for this documentary filmmaker.
So from all of us at NEW MUSLIM COOOL, thank you for that once-in-a-lifetime experience, Golden Minbar!