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Abu Dhabi-based Amna Ehtesham Khaishgi is the only female Pakistani filmmaker whose 26-minute documentary Leap of Faith, has been shortlisted for the Abu Dhabi Film Festival’s Emirates Best Documentary Film Competition. The festival is being held from October 14 to 23.
Leap of Faith is the story of four UAE residents of different nationalities, in the age group of 18 to 40, who chose to convert to Islam from the faith they were born into and are now living peacefully in the UAE.
Ferdinand Yousuf from the Philippines is a former member of the Christian Brothers who also served in Vatican City. He embraced Islam at age 40 and is now working as a supervisor in the UAE. Abdur Rahim McCarthy converted to Islam at 18 in the US. He now works as a teacher in the UAE. Anna, a British journalist embraced Islam two years ago. She is in her mid-20s and lives and works in Abu Dhabi, while Ramona, also in her mid-20s, is a Romanian who changed her faith in Abu Dhabi last year.
The documentary explores their backgrounds and tries to understand the circumstances that prompted them to make such a decision.
Shot and produced this summer, the film is written and directed by Amna, and produced by Abu Dhabi Film Commission. The film will be screened twice during the festival at Cinema 4, Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi, on Saturday, October 16 at 6.45 pm, when the four subjects of the film will be present, and on Monday, October 18 at 1pm.
“Leap of Faith has been like a spiritual journey for me. During its making, I kept wondering why the so-called successful people sometimes become so unhappy with the identities they have carried since childhood. This curiosity has brought me closer to my own faith. The documentary has taught me that understanding your religion and having conviction in it is the foundation for your own belief system,” Amna told Khaleej Times in an interview.
Amna explained that while living and working as a journalist in the UAE for several years, she met many people from many different nationalities who knew little about the real spirit of Islam before coming to the UAE.
“The real face of Islam impressed some of them so much so that they decided to go against the faith they were born in. In many cases, leaving their families and loved ones was not an easy decision. Such people can be found in all walks of life in the UAE. However, each of them has an inspirational story to share,” Amna said.
Amna said that 26 minutes were not enough to handle the subject. “The canvas of the story is so large and there is so much that can be shared. It was very difficult to encapsulate such a wide-ranging subject in half an hour. But one has to fit the format as well.” She is currently working as co-writer on a project called Veiled Police, a first-of-its-kind documentary about women in Abu Dhabi Police. The documentary is currently in production stage. The next project in the pipeline is Destination Aligarh. It is a subject very close to her heart: the Aligarh Muslim University, the revered educational institution which has produced great leaders for both India and Pakistan.
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