Friday, April 19, 2013

MediaLab documentary tackles anti-Muslim sentiment

By Taylor Lunka, News Writer

In the decade since the events of Sept. 11, anti-Muslim prejudice and stereotypes still exist in American society. Many fear and misunderstand aspects about this major world religion.
Sixty-two percent of Americans do not personally know a Muslim.
MediaLab sets out to educate people and break the cycle in their latest film “Beyond Burkas and Bombers: Dissecting Anti-Muslim Sentiment in America.”
The film premiered on campus April 11 and was live streamed online.

MediaLab is an award-winning, student-run, internship program based in the School of Arts and Communication at Pacific Lutheran University.
The purpose of the film is to tackle Islamophobia — the fear, prejudice or discrimination directed toward Muslims.
The film followed a couple, PLU student Carlos Sandoval and PLU alum Bashair Alazadi. It introduced how they met, the issues they went through with their different lifestyles and how they live their day-to-day lives.
Filming the documentary began in fall 2011 and wrapped up in June 2012 when the editing process began.
JuliAnne Rose, co-director of the documentary and political science major, chose this topic for the film.
“Social activism has always been an interest of mine, especially learning about the anti-Muslim rhetoric in America,” Rose said. She said she wanted to expose people to “a normal Islam couple here in America.”
One such scene in the documentary showed Sandoval and Alazadi heating up Hot Pockets and eating them together in their living room.
Heather Perry, co-director with Rose on the film, became part of the team during fall 2012 during the editing stage.
“She [Perry] was able to teach me about all stuff in communication that I didn’t know about,” Rose said.
Perry agreed she and Rose were a perfect fit. “JuliAnne [Rose] and I balanced each other out. I still don’t get some of the deep political issues,” Perry said.
Both directors agreed their favorite part of the process was meeting Sandoval and Alazadi.         “They are an incredible couple and really fun to be around,” Rose said.
Students live-tweeted the event under #beyondbombers and the premiere was live-streamed in Hauge Administration Building on a smaller screen and online.        At the end of the film, a panel discussed questions asked by the physically and virtually present audience. Ami Shah, visiting assistant professor in political science, and Turan Kayaoglu, associate professor of international relations from the University of Washington Tacoma campus, joined directors Rose, Perry and film stars Sandoval and Alazadi on the panel.
PLU students deemed the film as a success. First-year Peyton Schmidt said she didn’t know what the term Islamophobia was prior to the documentary. “This film was a great introduction to the topic and did a good job telling the story from opposing views,” Schmidt said.
She also said she would recommend this documentary for someone to watch because it “questions the nation’s attitude against Muslims and suggests that Americans take the radical actions of one group and associate it to all of Islam.”
Junior Rachel Espasandin said she approved of the documentary because it “showed the human side of Islam.” She said she enjoyed following a couple who is living out Islam and to see Sandoval’s life as a Muslim, since he is a convert to Islam. “[Sandoval] was a really powerful addition,” Espasandin said.
Espasandin  participated in the live-tweeting during the documentary and followed others who were doing the same.
The documentary can be purchased for $15 by emailing