1226 GMT December 15, 2019
The 'Jahanshahriha' (Transnational Muslims) is a documentary series directed by Iranian filmmaker Shahab Esfandiari. The second part of the documentary, centered on the lives of multinational new Muslims in Latin America, is being aired on Iranian national TV. The 25-episode documentary portrays an illustrated travelogue of Latin America. Edgardo As'ad, an Argentinean Shia preacher, familiarizes the audience with history and culture of some of the regional countries as well as the conditions of Shia Muslims. Hundreds of these people have embraced Islam since two decades.
Esfandiari received his M.A. in cinema from Tehran's Art University and later went to Britain for Ph.D. in cultural studies. In 'Jahanshahriha', the director tries to address the revival of Islam in the modern world, and the impact of the 1979 Islamic Revolution on the awakening of nations.
In an interview with Iran Daily, he discusses his ideas and plans. Excerpts follow:
IRAN DAILY: Please elaborate on the documentary and how the second part was produced.
Esfandiari: The first part was shot in England. Each episode featured an interview with people of different backgrounds who had embraced Islam. They were active and faithful Muslims living in a multi-cultural environment. Twelve personalities were interviewed in 14 episodes broadcast on national TV in 2012.
The second part is in form of a travelogue with the religious preacher Edgardo As'ad as the narrator who reviews the history, culture and lives of Latin American Muslims. A brief introduction on the social, economic and geographical status of these countries is presented in each episode for further acquaintance with the region.
Why did you focus on characters such as Edgardo As'ad in the second part?
Our familiarity with a Venezuelan Muslim woman in the first part marked our acquaintance with Edgardo who is of Lebanese descent, but he was born and raised in Argentina. In the course of his 18 years of activity, he has paved the way for the acquaintance of hundreds of people with Islam in over 20 Latin American states.
His efforts in Bolivia and Peru are quite outstanding. Today, there are venues for Muslims to gather and exchange views in such countries. Thus, he was the best character who could collaborate on the project. Together, we traveled to Venezuela, Cuba, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.
And, why did you choose Latin America?
Our studies indicated that there were few religious programs made in this region. Many Latin American Muslims are living in an environment far from the Islamic culture. Even, their names have nothing to do with Islam and our culture.
Given the growing number of Muslims in such countries, we decided to highlight Latin America. This was the first time that a group from the Islamic Republic of Iran went to Peru or Costa Rica to make a documentary, because we don't have an embassy or even a cultural center in these countries.
The documentary provides opportunities to get acquainted with new Muslims who embraced Islam and are interested in the Iranian Islamic culture.
How are people in countries with no proximity with Islam inclined to the religion?
Majority of people in these countries are Catholics and based on the current trend, religion is totally separated from politics and social issues. One can still observe injustice and inequity against people from different walks of life. In this case, when people hear about a religion that is established based on justice they are automatically attracted to it.
Of course, it is quite difficult to speak of Islamic values in countries with no knowledge of the religion and where media and commercial sectors are constantly trying to introduce Islam at par with terrorism in their propaganda, and induce that the religion is an obstacle to all social activities of women. Despite all these, sometimes when even one person converts to Islam, he or she helps 70 others embrace the religion.
How long did the second part take, and do you intend to make another sequel?
Shooting began in 2010 but the entire project, including the research, pre-and post-production phases took about four years. So far 11 episodes, each lasting 25 minutes, have been aired on Channel 3 of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. The first part of the documentary has been dubbed into Kurdish, Urdu and French for IRIB's Sahar network. The second part will soon be dubbed into several languages. IRIB's Jamejam and Documentary (Mostanad) TVs have also made requests for broadcasting the series.
The second part was time-consuming and required a huge budget. We are still dealing with financial issues but I hope that another series be made in the future.