Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Koran By Heart

On his way home from covering the Persian Gulf war, the filmmaker Greg Barker stayed overnight in a small Egyptian village. Early the next morning, an undulating sound awakened him. For someone raised in Southern California, where predawn interruptions usually come from car alarms, it took some time to realize he was hearing the muezzin’s call to prayer.

In that moment, Mr. Barker sensed both epiphany and rebuke. Something about the summons to worship clearly mattered enormously to the people now heading toward the mosque. Yet even after working for months as a journalist in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, reporting on a war in the midst of the Muslim world, Mr. Barker had to admit that he knew virtually nothing about Islam.

Now, 20 years later, the curiosity and challenge of that moment have reached fruition in the form of the documentary “Koran by Heart.” The film follows three children as they compete in an international contest to memorize and recite from the Koran, the Muslim holy book. Fittingly, it will be shown on HBO on Monday as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins.

No comments: