Tuesday, January 14, 2020

CINEMATTERS: NY SOCIAL JUSTICE FILM FEST opens and Adam Zucker's AMERICAN MUSLIM screens at the JCC Manhattan

Presenting "impactful films that engage the community toward a more democratic, inclusive, and just society," as its press release states, the new CINEMATTERS: NY SOCIAL JUSTICE FILM FESTIVAL opens this Thursday, January 16, in New York City at Manhattan's JCC, and runs through January 20. The line-up here looks quite promising, with one after another film that TrustMovies, had he a lot more time, would want to see. (You can peruse the entire festival schedule by clicking here.)

The one film I was able to view is a very necessary documentary entitled AMERICAN MUSLIM, which is directed, produced, filmed and edited by Adam Zucker. Given all that Mr. Zucker, pictured at right, is responsible for, I must say that his documentary has turned out quite well, in just about every department.

The impetus for this movie was the election to the Presidency of Donald Trump, along with our new era of, as Zucker calls it, "sanctioned bigotry."

While we've always had and always will have bigotry, this newly sanctioned idea comes from the vile and disgusting Mr. Trump and his accompanying, noxiously goose-stepping Republican Party.

You will not be surprised to learn that Zucker's doc is determined to show us American Muslims in some of their many other, much more numerous forms, rather than what our current right-wing nationalists are determined to make us imagine -- that all are terrorists.

To this end, he offers up five different American Muslims, originally from places as far afield as Palestine, Indonesia, Algeria, Yemen and Bengali/Bangladesh, and now all -- unless I misunderstood something -- have become American citizens. (Among the facts we learn here is that the majority of Arab-American Muslims are not Muslim but Christian. I had this sort of backward in an earlier version of this post.)

We view these people at work and with their families, and at the many political demonstrations as they try to raise support against Trump's infamous Muslim ban. As we watch them doing everything from condemning the terrorists who took down the World Trade Center (thereby giving the lie to the question so often heard, Why don't we ever see Muslims rallying against terrorism?) to helping other immigrant families in need of support, they will seem exactly what they are: not simply good citizens, but pretty damned exemplary ones. Were we all as helpful and caring as the folk we meet here, our unnecessarily divided country would be a better place.

Zucker moves his doc along at a good clip; there's not a lot of repetition or unnecessary rah-rahing. He has chosen his subjects well, so that each one offers a different look at Muslims, their religion and their primary concerns. We learn from and like all of these subjects. They're enjoyable to be around, and their movie is encouraging, upbeat, positive -- often joyous -- until we reach the point at which our Supreme Court votes (by a margin of one) to uphold Trump's Muslim ban.

Still, our subjects vow to continue their fight to help Americans better understand and appreciate their Muslim brethren. Consider this documentary an important part of that fight. American Muslim, running 82 minutes, plays the Manhattan JCC this Friday evening, January 17, at 7pm. To view the entire program for Cinematters: NY Social Justice Film Festival, simply click here.

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