Muslim Youth Voices

MUSLIM YOUTH VOICES presents stories that convey the richness and diversity of Muslim Americans. Over the course of three summers in six cities across the country, Muslim youth were given the essential tools to tell their own stories on their own terms. The workshops resulted in short films, amplifying these young people’s voices, and illuminating the many identities and experiences of youth and Muslim life in America.

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About Season 1

Muslim Youth Voices presents stories that convey the richness and diversity of Muslim Americans. Over the course of three summers, 44 youth from 6 cities were given the essential tools to tell their own stories on their own terms. The workshops resulted in short films, amplifying these young people’s voices, and illuminating the many identities and experiences of youth and Muslim life in America.

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    Another day, another stereotype about Muslims. It seems the media only has bad things to say about Muslims. Tired of the negative portrayals on TV, a teenager takes matters into her own hands and decides to show the media what Islam and her community are really about.

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    A Different Light

    Grief-stricken Nahar mourns the death of her good friend, Layla. Despite saving her many times, Nahar couldn’t prevent the accident that claims Layla’s life. In this darkly humorous take on life and death, Layla’s wise words from the afterlife help Nahar find peace.

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    Wings of Freedom

    Like any teenager, Maleeka is nervous about her first day of high school. Will she fit in? Will she make friends? And most importantly, will people discover her secret? When she witnesses bullying on campus, she must make a choice that exposes her secret but ultimately allows her to be true to herself.

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    Friends in Time

    Young Barry has a friend problem: he doesn’t have any. Lonely and left behind by others at school, he acts out by bullying Ted. Sitting at home playing video games one day, visitors from the future time travel to his living room, appearing out of nowhere to help him change the course of his life.

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    The Difference Between Us

    On a sunny day, two seemingly different students have an altercation on the sidewalk, leading to hostile words. Through flashbacks of each young woman’s day we see glimpses of their lives and learn that there’s more that’s similar about them than different.

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    The Day The Teachers Left

    When Hana fails a test at school and gets admonished by her teacher, she feels she has been treated unfairly. “I wish there were no more teachers,” she exclaims. The next day, she gets what she wished for and finds that a world without teachers isn’t so great after all.

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    Asha and Roodo are best friends, or at least they’re supposed to be. One day, a distracted Asha, glued to her cell phone, ignores Roodo at school. Miffed, Roodo spreads gossip about Asha. When Aisha confronts her, will their friendship survive?

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    Nahla is tired of living in Philly. She complains of seeing the same things day after day and dreams of exploring some new place far away. But she doesn’t have funds to travel, and reluctantly agrees to a pen pal instead. As she documents her life for her pen pal, she learns to appreciate her city.

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    Woods of the Reaper

    Zain and Moiz are walking in a park when they come across a “danger” sign at the edge of the woods. To Zain, this seems like a challenge to explore a forbidden area. But Moiz has a bad feeling about it as he reluctantly follows Zain into the woods.

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    Singer songwriter Jude struggles with expectations placed on her to obscure her heritage. Her manager asks if she plans to wear a hijab like her mother, telling her that it would be detrimental to her image. After a botched performance and plummeting confidence, a chance encounter helps her gain direction.

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    A teenager sits transfixed in front of the TV all day, mindlessly absorbing negative images and prompting her mother to scold her. After a horrifying dream, the teen takes her mother’s advice to heart, unlocking a world of imagination and poetry from within.

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    Poetry and Community

    In Cedar-Riverside, an immigrant neighborhood in Minneapolis, the Brian Coyle Community Center runs an after school arts program that helps youth express their own thoughts and experiences. The program has nurtured teens like Sisco, a spoken word poet who now teaches in the program where he was once a participant.

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    Black Muslim Woman

    From the first line, “I feel like I’m on fire,” Mikel Aki’leh delivers a powerful poem on beauty and blackness. Against a rhythmic score, Aki’leh enumerates the ways in which she’s been told that her black skin is “a sign of dirt” to others — and how she ultimately finds strength and confidence through her faith.

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    Fair and Lovely

    Cutting remarks from her mother send a teenage girl on a quest to change her appearance. Bombarded by media messages that reinforce the notion that lighter skin means prettier, the girl slathers on a product that claims to make her “white before you know it” until she comes to a breaking point.

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    I Came to America

    Shemsedin recounts the day he arrives in America with his sister. With a sense of wonderment — but also some apprehension — he cautiously explores his new home. When he’s unsure of how to navigate his new school and make friends, a teacher notices and helps him find his way.

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    Mina is looking forward to her high school graduation — and especially to seeing her sister from Tehran who plans to attend the milestone event. When the Muslim Travel Ban goes into effect and keeps the sister from visiting, Mina’s friend has an idea to cheer her up.

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    Identity Crisis

    In the near future, Congress passes a law targeting Muslim Americans that bans religious garb in public. The government sets up a new surveillance agency to enforce the law. When two Muslim boys go outside to play basketball, they risk getting caught.

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    Money, Power & Portland

    Money and power corrupt in this tale of politics set in the Pacific Northwest. Basil has ambitions to become the mayor of Portland. To do so, he takes money from a shadowy figure, giving up everything he stands for in the process — even his own name.

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    Long Live the Queen

    A young woman named U76T lives a mundane and ordinary existence, going to work every day at a factory and collecting her food ration. But everything changes one day when she’s summoned by the queen and meets someone unexpected along the way.

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    Syrian Plight

    In this documentary, filmmaker Dunya Khalil brings attention to Syrian refugees, particularly children and youth who have become orphans. She learns about young people who have been purposely shot in the spine in order to paralyze them and prevent them from rebelling against the government.

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    Amna Means Peace

    In this lighthearted comedy, Amna keeps annoying her older sister Rafaha with declarations about changing the world. When Amna says she’s going to stop global warming and promote equal rights, Rafaha says, “good luck with that.” But Amna proves her cynical sister wrong by showing her that you’re never too young to care.

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    The Mental Game

    “It takes more than just strength to be a fighter,” says 14-year-old Abdullah Davis. “You have to have a certain level of heart to do the sport.” Abdullah and his older brother Muhammad train and compete in martial arts. In this documentary, the two boys and their grandfather Bill, a Vietnam War veteran, contemplate the mental perseverance it takes to succeed in a fight — and in life.

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    What does success mean? What is happiness? These are the questions that Kamal Ahmed reflects upon after a lifetime of hard work with his hands. For many years, he was a janitor at a large public housing complex. But now pain from arthritis keeps him from working. In this loving portrait of her father, Primi Akhtar shares his wisdom and her hopes for him.

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    Someone I Lost

    Six years after the death of his mother, Riyaz Ali recalls memories of everyday life with her, from taking family road trips together to the way she used to pick out his clothes for him. Juxtaposing his recollection of childhood with scenes from his life today as a young man in New York, Ali shares his love and grief in this elegiac tribute.

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    In this mockumentary, 10-year-old twin sisters Noor and Haya share their thoughts about each other. Haya expresses love and admiration for her sister. But Noor confesses that her twin drives her nuts. She also suspects that her sister is an alien and sets out to prove it.

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    Trust or Bust

    What happens when a teenager asks a parent if he can go out at night with his friends and the parent says no? What if the parent says yes? This film explores the outcomes of both scenarios and the importance of trust in a parent-child relationship.

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    Food For Thought

    As he eats his boring bagged lunch from home, Rizky feels that something’s not quite right with the new school lunches served to other students. In this tale of high school politics, nefarious plans, and zombies, Rizky saves the day with an unlikely weapon.

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    The Crossover

    On the basketball court, a boy trash talks his opponent. When he can’t seem to score a point, he become increasingly frustrated and quits. With the help of his older brother, he learns a lesson in humility, hard work, and the true value of playing sports with others.

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    The Apple

    A red apple waits in a grocery store to be picked. The big day finally comes when it is purchased, bagged, and brought to a home. Told from the point of view of the apple, this film shares the inner monologue of a fruit that just wants to fulfill its purpose in life as a healthy snack.

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    In this documentary, the filmmaker shares why he needs to run — and it’s not just for the exercise. For him, running is a matter of mind over body. When he runs, he can overcome pain and push himself to accomplish more than he could have imagined.

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    Inside Out

    Grocery shopping can be stressful. This film lets us into the inner monologue of one young woman’s anxiety as she braves the aisles of a store where she encounters other customers and a less-than-helpful clerk in her quest to pick up a few things — and get out of there.

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    In Search of Home

    In a sparse Staten Island apartment, a young Muslim American man struggles with feelings of loneliness. Looking for connection, he finds an Islamic Center located a ferry ride away. Where he once prayed alone, he now prays with others in community.

Related Video

Muslim Youth Voices | Interview with Salman Najjar
Muslim Youth Voices | Interview with Mahya Shakibnia-Shirazi
Muslim Youth Voices | Interview with Mahmood Jawad
Muslim Youth Voices | Interview with Razan Bayan
Muslim Youth Voices | Interview with Fouad Omrane
Muslim Youth Voices | Interview with Iqbal Maxamed

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