Directed by: Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah
Featuring: Negin Farsad, Dean Obeidallah, Aron Kader, Preacher Moss, Karim Omary, Maysoon Zayid, Omar Elba
The Muslims Are Coming! is a documentary I was very excited to see. The film had its highly anticipated world premiere at the 19th annual Austin Film Festival this year, and I knew very little about this film going in. But since I ended up at the second screening, I had already heard from many festival-goers that this was the "Must-See" movie of the festival. Though its following was modest going into the festival, the film won over its audience during both screenings and received an incredibly positive reaction, winning the Comedy Vanguard Audience Award.
The brainchild of comedians/producers/directors Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, The Muslims Are Coming! is a film created from the need that these two comedian/filmmakers saw in America for an injection of comedy, and with it hopefully better understanding, into this country's interaction with Muslim culture. So when the two directors got together and wanted to make a documentary about their attempt at combating the rising Islamophobia in this country, they decided to assemble a crack team of Muslim comics and tackle the quest of introducing Middle America and the Deep South to a different way of thinking about Muslim culture.
The documentary combines shots from the various stand-up shows with clips of a variety of other stunts in which the comedians introduce laughter into the community while surreptitiously educating the people on tolerance. In Salt Lake City, they stood across from the Mormon Temple and held up signs that read "Hug a Muslim" and then proceeded to receive what seemed to them to be a surprising number of heartfelt hugs from several people in that community. And in a town in the South, they sat up an "Ask a Muslim" booth allowing people to come up and ask them any questions or state any concerns they might have about Muslims' roles in American culture since 9/11.
The thing that makes this film so wildly successful, though, isn't just the witty comedy delivered throughout by several very talented Muslim comedians; it's the combination of these comedic endeavors with moments of honesty captured in one-on-one interviews with the comedians as well as pop culture icons like Jon Stewart, Lewis Black and Rachel Maddow, and even political representatives such as Congressman Keith Ellison.
With The Muslims Are Coming!, the filmmakers hoped to combat the relentless barrage of Islamophobia that Muslims face in today's America, one small-town comedy show at a time. At this they were successful, but the moments of sincerity they've caught allow this documentary to be as poignant as it is funny. And that's a rare combination.