An Act of Worship: Film Review | Tribeca 2022
(3/5) An Act of Worship, directed by Nausheen Dadabhoy, is an undoubtedly significant and vital documentary piece detailing the experiences of Muslim-Americans through the steady increase of Islamophobia in the United States.
DOCUMENTARYFILM FESTIVALTRIBECAMOLLY KUSILKA
An Act of Worship, directed by Nausheen Dadabhoy, is an undoubtedly significant and vital documentary piece detailing the experiences of Muslim-Americans through the steady increase of Islamophobia in the United States. It chronicles the last 30 years of monumental historical events that have spurned increases in anti-Muslim rhetoric, and it’s a desperately needed education on the heartbreaking effects of Islamophobia on Muslim Americans. Told through many personal stories, it painfully documents just how this hatred has negatively affected and forever altered their lives.
At the start of the film, a group of Muslim Americans is asked to write an experience of discrimination they’ve faced on a sticky note and place it on the wall. There is a striking and powerful visual of the wall covered in a rainbow of sticky notes detailing moments of pure hatred. It’s a harrowing image to see the blatant disgust and hatred Muslim Americans have to face. At one point, someone recounts being asked by a teacher “Why do you have to be so different?
The documentary’s narrative structure is a chronological timeline of each pivotal event in history that has caused a devastating spike in Islamophobia, starting with the Gulf War in 1991, to Trump’s election in 2016. With each new event, we get different recounts from Muslim individuals on how it impacted their lives, typically in the form of an onslaught of cruel and dangerous hatred. But because we are shifting to many different individual’s anecdotes, it is difficult to grasp any sense of focused narrative and central character.
In the latter half, Khadega, a Black Sudanese Muslim woman, is running for local office, and the film has several scenes documenting her journey. She’s compelling enough of a figure to have been the center of her own documentary, and I ultimately felt that we didn’t have enough time with her, and left things unresolved. This is due to the film’s grand scope, which makes sense, as there’s so much to cover and so many stories to tell, but I think it would have benefited from a more narrow perspective. It would have been just as effective, but more focused and personal.