– New Film Offers a Window into a Small-town Mosque Uncovering a
Microcosm of Muslim Life and a Struggle over Ideology –
WASHINGTON, D.C. — WETA, the flagship Washington, D.C., PBS station today announced that “The Mosque in Morgantown,” part of the “America at a Crossroads” series, will premiere across the country on Monday, June 15, 2009 at 10 p.m. ET (check local listings).
Produced by Version One Productions, Inc., in association with WGBH, Boston, “The Mosque in Morgantown” presents an evenhanded chronicle of life in a West Virginia Muslim community as it struggles to define itself in a post-9/11 world. The vérité-style documentary features author Asra Nomani, now co-director of the Pearl Project investigation at Georgetown University and a former Wall Street Journal reporter, as she pushes for change at her hometown mosque. It also highlights the very different path to change being driven by the community’s moderates. Through engaging interviews and expertly shot pivotal moments, “The Mosque in Morgantown” deftly frames this local conflict as a lens to explore the larger dilemmas facing American Islam.
The catalyst for the story came with Nomani’s return to her West Virginia hometown of Morgantown following dramatic personal events. As a reporter working in Pakistan after September 11, 2001, she had faced a double shock: a surprise pregnancy and abandonment by the man she thought would be her husband, then the murder of her dear friend and fellow journalist Daniel Pearl at the hands of Muslim extremists. Still reeling and with a son to raise, she returned to Morgantown and discovered that the mosque had been taken over by men she saw as extremists. “The Mosque in Morgantown” follows what happens when she decides to fight back against their exclusionism against women — angering even the mosque’s moderates. As the film unfolds, it tells a story of competing paths to social change, American identity, and the nature of religion itself.
Other featured individuals are Christine Arja, a Muslim convert who initially opposes Nomani’s efforts but eventually becomes her only ally in the mosque; and Ihtishaam Qazi, a moderate mosque leader who becomes Nomani’s strongest opponent as he struggles to balance competing viewpoints in the community.
Brittany Huckabee, the film’s producer, explained the decision to make the film: “The story in Morgantown is really about the dilemma of moderate Muslims, and that’s a story we don’t often see covered in the media. But it’s an absolutely critical part of the evolving saga of Islam in America, and at the same time I think it’s a story to which people of all faiths can relate. Hopefully this film can open a window for non-Muslims to understand what goes on inside the local mosque — and hold up a mirror for Muslims to reflect on their own experiences.”
“The Mosque in Morgantown” is the final installment among a wide-array of twenty documentaries broadcast as part of the celebrated “America at a Crossroads” series. This initiative, created by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and produced under the aegis of WETA Washington, D.C., was designed to create an in-depth, provocative series of films exploring the challenges confronting the world post-9/11. The first 11 films in the series aired on PBS April 15-20, 2007, generating a strong audience response and critical acclaim, and ten additional specials have premiered since then. CPB developed the initial concept for “America at a Crossroads” in 2004 with an open call for film projects. More than 400 proposals were submitted from public television stations and independent documentary filmmakers around the world. In 2006, CPB named WETA the producing station to oversee all films throughout production.
Major funding is provided by Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and the LEF Moving Image Fund. Series producer: WETA Washington, D.C. Program producer: Brittany Huckabee. Associate producer: Ann S. Kim. Director of photography: Gabriel Goodenough. Original music: Kareem Roustom. Series executive producers: Jeff Bieber and Dalton Delan. Series producer: Leo Eaton. Series production manager: Jim Corbley. Format: CC Stereo DVI Letterbox/Widescreen where available. Online: www.pbs.org/crossroads
About Version One Productions, Inc.
Brittany Huckabee is the founder and principal of Version One Productions, Inc., and served as a 2006-2007 Filmmaker-in-Residence at WGBH in Boston. Her directing experience includes four documentaries and two weekly series that were broadcast nationally on PBS. Most recently, she produced and directed the three-hour documentary series “Heaven On Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism”, which debuted on PBS in June 2005. She is currently in the early development phases on a new project about human trafficking in Nepal. “The Mosque in Morgantown” was her first independent film project. Online: www.themosqueinmorgantown.com
WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television. WETA’s other productions and co-productions include the critically acclaimed “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and “Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal”; the “In Performance at the White House” and “The Kennedy Center Presents” performance series; and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including “THE WAR” and coming this fall, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at www.weta.org.