By Abbie Bernet
Sana Haq, assistant professor in the Department of Cinematic Arts, shares her top suggestions for films to watch this Ramadan that celebrate Muslim stories and experiences.
Last week, we entered the holy month of Ramadan, and I have a few films to recommend. In case you’re interested in getting to know more about Muslim life and experience in the U.S. and abroad.
The Battle of Algiers (1966)
I’m going to kick off the list with a 1966 classic by Gillo Pontecorvo called, “The Battle of Algiers.” This movie was shot on location in Algiers shortly after the revolution, and is an excellent piece of neorealist drama depicting the events on the ground, and puts a lot of the struggles in the Middle East into context that still is relevant today.
Where Is the Friend’s House? (1987)
Our second film in the list is a 1987 Iranian film by Abbas Kiarostami, and it’s called, “Where Is the Friend’s House?” This is a beautiful, moving drama about a child who is looking for his friend’s home because he has his notebook by mistake and is trying to return it to him so his friend doesn’t get in trouble. And it, through a very simple premise, shows us the complicated moral values that a child needs to navigate, and all of us need to navigate in the social lives that we lead.
Malcolm X (1992)
Moving into 1990s, we’re going to come to Hollywood and I have a recommendation by Spike Lee. “Malcolm X,” which is a biopic about legendary icon civil rights activist Malcolm X. It’s also a good way to learn a little bit more about the Muslim life and experience of African-Americans in America and also of the Nation of Islam and how that kind of coincided with the Civil Rights Movement.
My Name Is Khan (2010)
My fourth movie comes to us from the subcontinent. It’s an Indian/Bollywood movie called, “My Name Is Khan.” That came out in 2010. I really love this movie because it has a balance of lighthearted romance and emotional drama, but it also touches on very real issues that American Muslims dealt with in the aftermath of 9/11.
Barakah Meets Barakah (2016)
In more recent times, I have from 2016, it’s a Saudi Arabian film, which is a relatively small industry. This movie, called, “Barakah Meets Barakah,” is available on Netflix. It’s a beautiful rom-com, and it kind of bucks some of the preconceived conceptions we might have about the Middle East. It’s about a conservative man who falls in love with an influencer and how they kind of navigate and find common ground.
And then as an honorary mention, I would like to recommend a movie from my home country, which is Pakistan. This movie is called “Joyland”. It just came out, in 2022. Joyland is a beautiful realist drama about a family where everybody is trying to navigate their own gender related expectations that their family has of them, and how they find joy for themselves.
I hope you get to see these movies! Some of them are easily available online, others may not be, but it’s worth the effort to try and search for them.
Watch Professor Haq’s full interview here.