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The Berlin Film Festival, which came to a conclusion this weekend, became a platform for movies that dealt with Islam in one way or another. Three movies featuring Muslim characters were showcased at the festival and vied for the Golden Bear, the festival’s top honor. Although none of these films won the award, they were still well received at the festival and advanced the stories of Muslims through film.

The German movie Shahada from Afghan-German director Burhan Qurbania is about three German-born Muslims who work to come to terms with their religion and their respective Western lifestyles. With Shahada, Qurbania said that he “had aimed to demonstrate that people who are fully engaged in modern society can also observe their faith, and question it.”

With On the Path, Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic takes the subject of Islamic fundamentalism head on as she uses her film to track its rise in Bosnia with a story about a woman dealing with her husband when he becomes a member of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi sect.

The third film, Die Fremde, or “When We Leave” is from Austrian filmmaker Feo Aladag. With this film, his first feature length movie, Aladag tackles the subject of honor killings with the story of a German-Turkish woman who decides to divorce her husband, an act that her father wants her killed for. Aladag attempts to separate this act from Islam with his film, arguing that honor killings predate Islam and is ingrained in some cultures, having nothing to do with religion.

The three filmmakers hope to start a dialogue with their films. In an interview with journalists, Zbanic said: “Up to now, we've just had yelling and shouting. I hope that the audience will now be able to see both sides."

Movies about Muslims have become more prevalent as of late. The Berlin Film Festival was also the setting for the debut of My Name is Khan, a film dealing with Muslim issues in the United States. Also, last month’s Sundance Film Festival had three films on its schedule pertaining to Islam and Muslims –a documentary about the birth of punk Islam called Taqwacore, a movie adaptation of the book The Taqwacores that actually spawned this punk Islam movement, and Four Lions, a “jihadist comedy” (I didn't make that up).


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