Shahada

20 08 2012

Synopsis: three Muslim-Germans deal with issues of their faith in different ways.

Super awesome things:  The intersecting narrative structure, like that of Crash, can be a useful and effective structure, if employed correctly.  Otherwise, like Crash, it can feel gimmicky and work against the film.  Fortunately, in Shahada, the character intersections feel quite natural and develop naturally as well.  Although the three main characters never interact with each other directly, they’re never that far from each other, which is an interesting observation.  The thing I like about this film the most is that it has a very modern way of looking at Islam.  Three young-ish people who are all Muslim to varying degrees have to juggle their identities to fit the modern, Western world , which is still a relevant topic and source of conflict in this world.

The three stories involve a young woman named Maryam who seems to be yet another clubber in Berlin’s night scene, but quickly becomes a devout and traditional Muslim following an illegal abortion; Sammi, who is conflicted with having feelings for a patient, quiet co-worker (who also likes him back and is so adorable); and Ismail, a cop whose life gets confusing when he starts having relations with a woman he shot once.  All three of these stories involve a lot of conflict from the self (save for Maryam, who faces conflict from her peers and father who believe she has gone too far into fundamentalism), which I think is interesting.  The events here are also shown to be fairly neutral, and leaves things for us to decide if the characters are right or wrong.  There’s no judgement here (well, again, except for Maryam’s story).  It’s well-written and moves at a very good pace.

Not so awesome things:  Just because all three stories are mostly handled well, doesn’t mean they’re all believable.  When Maryam regresses from being a liberal-ish clubbing young woman to a near fundamentalist, the change is too abrupt.  Sure, she may have witnessed “signs”, but she doesn’t seem to question their validity and instead accepts them as a call to be more religious.  I don’t know about you, but if I were singing and dancing in a club to a song about equating the need to fuck to breathing, it would take me a while –if ever — to become super religious like Maryam.

Likewise, Ismail’s strange relationship with a woman he shot in the past, is weird (he seems to know that, at least) and a little too unbelievable.  I can understand being inexplicably drawn to someone, but neither he nor the woman he shot seem to acknowledge just how damn strange it is.  At least he calls her out on not being sent by God to get rid of her baby, which in turn, raises some good questions about fate vs. religious calling, but then their relationship ends so abruptly he he returns to his family with such a blank look in his eyes that we wonder if he really even cares.

And the ending… well, there’s open-ended, which I appreciate.  And then there’s really open-ended.  For me, the ending of Shahada was too open.  Why did Maryam leave her hospital room anyway?  Where is she going?  Just too many questions.

Good for watching: instead of Crash.

Overall: entertaining and brings up a lot of questions of faith in the today’s society.

Grade: B


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