CHAMPAIGN — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised it. Filmmaker Michael Moore wants everyone in America to see it. Variety calls it first-rate.
It's "Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football," a documentary co-produced by 1997 University of Illinois graduate Ash-har Quraishi and his wife, Basma Babar-Quraishi, and directed by Rashid Ghazi. a sports marketing executive and Ash-har's brother-in-law.
The award-winning documentary explores the lives of four players on the Fordson High School football team in Dearborn, Mich., in 2009, when 98 percent of the team was Arab-American.
The documentary will be shown at 7 p.m. Monday at the Art Theater in Champaign. The screening is free and open to the public; afterward, Quraishi will answer questions.
"Our hope was that this would drop the veil, if you will, and give people who aren't familiar with Muslim-Americans and their culture an opportunity to see what it's like when they're at home," he said. "It's interesting to show that juxtaposition of the community, while holding on to their faith and culture, desperately wanting to be part of the fabric of America."
Quraishi said it took the filmmakers five years to convince Fordson officials to allow them to make the documentary because of the atmosphere in post-9/11 America. They received permission just two weeks before production started; they spent the last 10 days of Ramadan 2009 shooting the film. That was the last year Ramadan would fall during the late summer/early fall.
"They were playing on hot turf and there was no eating, drinking, etc," Quraishi said. "They were practicing and playing and still competitive."
In addition to exploring the players' lives, the documentary tackles issues related to Islam and Islamophobia.
A former CNN bureau chief/correspondent in Islamabad, Quraishi, who lives in Chicago, is working this spring with UI journalism Professor Nancy Benson, who teaches international reporting. He will accompany her and her students to Turkey this spring, where they will learn international reporting techniques and produce pieces.