The Muslim World and Cinema
Every culture promotes its history, beliefs, heroes, values,norms, and attitude. The African-American director Spike Lee said about his films, “I'm just trying to tell a good story and make thought-provoking, entertaining films. I just try and draw upon the greatculture we have as a people, from music, novels, the streets.”
Is there a parallel to African-American, Asian, or Latin cinema, called “Muslim Cinema”?
Does it exist, and if so, how can it be understood? Before one can understand the cinema of a people, a little more light needs to be shed on the actual people.The Muslim world, with approximately one fifth of the world population and in turn its politics, economics, and culture, plays a very important role on the world stage. Headline news is the most popular venue promoting what is known about Muslims, so it becomes imperative for Muslims to be seen and heard from other vantage points.
One of these vistas is art, and in the present world Cinema,due its mass appeal and significant availability. An introduction to Muslim Cinema allows Muslims to take a critical reflection about their own beliefs and culture, as well as providing a window for those who are of other faiths to see who Muslims are.
Where does one start? Some countries like the U.S., Japan, France and India have a strong arts culture, and an affinity or presence to the medium of film.The Muslim world does not easily fit in this category, so how else can it be viewed. Besides providing entertainment, film can present a window to the economic, social or moral challenges of society. There are volumes of books on world cinema, regional cinema (e.g. Arab Cinema), and national cinema of Muslim-majority countries that have a cinema and history like Egyptian or Turkish cinema.
However, “Muslim Cinema” is not a known entity. This introduction to the subject is at best like the Indian story of a group of blind men feeling different parts of an elephant, trying to determine what an Elephant is like.Maybe this introduction is its tusk or tail, but it is a starting point for discourse.The Muslim world, although perceived as one entity, is not monolithic. It is made up of different regions, countries, states and communities. And although religion is the basic underlying theme,each region comes with its own differentiating culture. There are over1.4 Billion Muslims in the world represented in 48 Muslim majority countries from Morocco to Malaysia.